Breakfast Mon–Fri 7am–10.30am, Sat–Sun 7am–11am; lunch midday–2.30pm; afternoon tea 1pm–5.30pm; dinner 7pm–10.30pm
‘Elegant, Milanese-style hotel dining room and bar for upscale Italian cuisine and interesting wines. Facing Kensington Gardens, on the ground floor of the Baglioni Hotel London, Brunello Bar and Restaurant is a stylish new Italian restaurant in Kensington. The menus incorporate many classic Italian dishes.’
Formerly Osteria 60, the restaurant has since adopted the name of its mothership hotel.
Not mine, frankly, despite the food being up there with the best I’ve tasted all year and service brilliant—charming, well-informed and funny, never obsequious. It was warm enough, the early autumn evening we visited, to sit outside on the large, black and white tiled pavement terrace, bang on Kensington Gore, that weird bit of no-man’s-land between the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington High Street.
The terrace is shielded from the hoi polloi, as is the wont in such places, by ornate hedge topiary, which does nothing to detract from the fact that there’s a section of the A4 thundering between you and the tranquil loveliness of Kensington Gardens (we gazed wistfully at golden, rusty red treetops over the traffic).
Inside, it’s glitzy, gaudy, ostentatious. Huge, ugly chandeliers, textured gold walls, black marble, more gold (taps) in the mirrored loos—pretty vulgar really, clearly designed to appeal to…
About ten minutes after being shown our table by head waiter Antonioni (who deserves a special mention for superb food recommendations and understated, eye-rolling patience), an enormous group of incredibly rude, blinged-up Arabs forced our table further and further back, until it was almost in the shrubbery. They demanded more chairs, more tables, smoking, entitled, no word of please or thanks—neither to us, the other customers, nor the staff.
They had arrived, with much ear-shattering vrooooming, via a veritable fleet of hideous supercars—a telling metaphor for the absolute disregard in which they held everybody and everything else around them (not least the planet).
I’d like to think that this is an anomaly—there were a few perfectly nice-looking other diners—but, judging by the décor (and prices, and location), I doubt it. Which is a shame, because…
…was heavenly. Warm, crisp-crust sourdough with creamy, fluffy whisked butter was sufficiently sublime to convert the most po-faced of carb- and fat-phobes, and whetted our appetites for what was to come. We weren’t disappointed.
An amuse bouche of prawn tartare on orange crisp with buttermilk foam made me rethink a natural revulsion to raw prawns and ongoing dislike of foams. My calamari ‘tagliatelli’ with poached tomatoes was another revelation, the silky, tender squid ribbons a clever fake pasta conceit—a hell of a lot more convincing, and toothsome, than courgetti. Andy’s steak tartare with black sesame crisp, shallot mayonnaise and caviar was almost obscenely decadent, and absolutely mouth-watering.
To follow Andy went for the 36-hour slow-cooked ragu topped with beef carpaccio (have I mentioned he likes his meat?). The ragu was an intensely flavoured, sticky jus, made by simmering the beef for an age—with no booze, Antonioni told us—then passing the resultant sauce through a sieve. The carpaccio atop the mahogany-glazed pasta was as tender and finely sliced as one could wish for (though one hates to imagine what happened to the bits of beef left behind in the sieve).
My linguine vongole with courgettes was a similarly new take on an old favourite, and while I bow to no-one in my love of the real thing, made simply with shell-on clams, wine, chilli and garlic, this was a different beast altogether. The courgettes (surely zucchini in an Italian restaurant?) had been pureed and reduced, along with a very concentrated clam jus and some cream, to create a sauce that tasted more of vongole than the little critters themselves, yet put the hand-rolled, perfectly al-dente pasta centre stage. This is seriously accomplished cooking.
Our puddings were a delight, both to behold, and to eat; the Mondrian-inspired chocolate slab a work of art incorporating mousses and ganaches dark, white and milk, the deconstructed tiramisu almost feather-light. God, it was all unbelievably yummy.
Was good, very expensive, and we had a lot of it—partly to drown out our neighbours, who didn’t get any more likeable as the evening wore on.
In a nutshell
To sum up, Brunello/Osteria 60 serves terrifically good food in mediocre surroundings, wasted on some of the ghastliest people on the planet. Two stars for atmosphere, five stars for food and service.