'The whole place is designed like an expensive yacht'

Chucs Westbourne Grove

Mon–Sat 8am–11.30pm, Sun 11am–6.30pm

The blurb

Having previously eaten at sister pub Chucs Bar & Grill on Dover Street, I knew the Italian culinary delights we were in for. Chucs draws its inspiration, decor and vibes from life in Lake Como and Positano: relaxed drinking, San Pellegrino on tap, nibbling on a plate of Carpaccio here and Branzino there.

You can even enjoy a breakfast or brunch at the new Chucs branch, with matcha juices, flax seed smoothies, and eggs cooked every way desired.

The style

The whole place is designed like an expensive yacht—walk in on ground level with the bar to your left, and either head down a wooden staircase into the dining room, or up five steps to a mezzanine level showcasing the Chucs clothing line. The waiters are dressed in cruise uniforms (minus the caps), wearing white jackets with gold epaulettes and double breast buttons, and when paired with the cream-leather-clad, paneled seating down one side of the dining room, the whole effect is rather suave and elegant.

The crowd

On one side of us, an Italian woman chastising her husband, the other side, a self-absorbed socialite, and with the tables very close together, you can hear more of other diners’ conversations than perhaps you’d like to.

The waiters are very attentive; we were asked whether we wanted still or sparking water three times while the first waiter was fulfilling our initial order. This should ease once the staff relax into their new roles.

The food

The antipasti starters offer a selection of carpaccio, tartares, frittis, salads, and cured meats, the pastas to follow are homemade and include gluten free options, and the secondi plates show off more of the chef’s abilities with dishes such as venison fillet with grilled polenta (£33) and grilled octopus (£26) alongside the ‘Chucs Classics’ that include truffle pizzas (£26), a Chucs burger (£15), and a club sandwich (£15).

My tuna tartare for starter was mouthwateringly delicious, and to tell you the truth it’s one I’d ordered at Chucs Dover Street over a year ago, so I expected it would be of the same standard. It was better. We also ordered a dazzling Chucs Cobb salad organized into a pinwheel of ingredients and colour (a similar presentation to a McCarthy salad), which was delicious and full of texture, but seemed to lack the natural rustic character I look for in a salad. It was certainly enjoyable nonetheless.

We followed with the wild boar ragu, the Chilean sea bass with a fennel coleslaw-style salad, and a side of spinach. Both dishes were faultless. The sauce and the tenderness of the boar was magnificent, and the sea bass fell apart in thick, juicy flakes, complemented by the sharp flavors of the fennel ‘puntarelle’ salad with anchovy dressing.

After an incredible two courses of tantalising flavours, textures, and exotic ingredients (three if you count the bread basket and antipasti board that is included in the £4 cover charge), it seemed rude to miss out on another foray into Italian delights. Sadly, though, this brought an abrupt halt to our culinary journey—my Gelato al Cioccolato (dark chocolate ice cream, £6) had frozen crystals throughout, and the tiramisu was a bit soggy. It was underwhelming to say the least, in look and flavour, and I expect it was hastily prepared. ​

Afterwards, we adjourned upstairs for cocktails and a wander around the small Chucs boutique on the upper floor.

The drink

Chucs boasts a well-selected drinks menu, from beautiful handcrafted wines from France and Italy at £33 to £500 a bottle, to well-prepared, stylish cocktails ranging from £10–£14. My bellini used fresh peach juice, and the martini was well executed, under Matteo’s watchful eye, using Sipsmith gin and a twist of lemon. During our meal we shared a bottle of Saint Joseph Blanc from the Rhone valley at £59, which was clean and zesty with hints of lemon and marzipan—a rich texture similar to a red, it paired well with all our courses.

In a nutshell

The food on the whole is good, and Chucs offers a concise one page menu (the majority of it written in English) that nevertheless leaves you stuck for choice. Another thing that’s great about the menu is that even though it’s split into Primi and Secondi courses, whereas in Italy you’d be left with a plate of buttery pasta or a lump of chicken with
no vegetables, each of the Chucs courses makes a meal in itself, sides and all.

The interior has succeeded in creating a relaxed, Riviera-style atmosphere—ideal clientele would be yummy mummies nibbling on a starter and drinking cocktails at the bar, and businessmen tucking into venison fillet and lobster spaghetti downstairs in the restaurant. It’s a place I’d definitely return to, with its greatest pull being the excellent cocktails, a stylish setting, and Italian nibbles.

Chucs, 226 Westbourne Grove, London W11; 020 7243 9136; www.chucsrestaurant.com

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