'The range of choice on the menu is impressive and so the cooking turned out to be, initially at least'


Open for lunch Mon–Fri midday–3pm, Sat–Sun midday–5pm; open for dinner Mon–Sat 6.30pm–10.30pm, Sun 6.30pm–10pm

Restaurants open and close so rapidly in London that a 10-year anniversary is certainly cause for celebration. On the night we visited, the weather played it’s part and dining al fresco on the King’s Road on a warm midsummer night under twinkly lights certainly feels pretty special. General manager Michael Mayhew attended to us on the night and was politely diplomatic in dealing with two drunks. I’d caught up with (and brought along) a Geordie friend prior to arriving and I should know better than to try and match him drink for drink, being a Southern shandy drinking poof. Sorry Michael. The name of the restaurant means ‘madhouse’ so hopefully he’s used to it.

Pane Carasau turned up as an amuse bouche while we lingered over the menu. This Sardinian flat bread is a little like an Italian version of poppadoms, with a proper snap to it. On top was a sweet garlicky pork neck that was close to parma ham, some wonderful bream and a faultless bruschetta topping – it was a great start.

The smart set come here and not only because we’re in SW3. It’s because they’re the type of crowd that can afford to pay £28 for a lobster linguine. Yes, there were loafers without socks, yes, there was a man sticking to water in a pinstripe suit (big day tomorrow in the city) and yes, yes, yes, there was a silvery haired gentleman who turned up with a stonkingly sexy woman in a slip of a dress who probably wasn’t his daughter, though she might have been the same age. You’ve got to love Chelsea.

The range of choice on the menu is impressive and so the cooking turned out to be, initially at least. Steelhead sea trout tartare (£10) was a fishy punch of flavour with addictive crunchy panzanella and the bonus of a crispy shard of skin on which to load fish. Grilled cuttlefish, black quinoa, chilli and peas (£9.75) was good too, the char jusxtaposed well with the sweetness of the peas and made for a thoughtful summer dish.

Michael offered smaller plates of the pasta dishes next, which I was grateful for after over stretching my belly limits at Terra Vergine. Tagliatelle with ox cheek and heart bolognese (£14.50) came with a winey aroma of winter stew and was, ahem, hearty and rich. Not summery at all, but great. Gnocchi with Tuscan sausage ragu (£13.50) was also the kind of hot food you’d like to come home to after a winter walk, with the melting mini pillows of pasta working well with the coarse sausage.

Just as everything was going swimmingly, we hit some bum notes. Slow roast Dorset lamb shoulder (£23.75) was tender but lacked flavour. Similarly, the monkfish with anchovy and lemon (£26) arrived all dressed up (in herbs) but didn’t really have us oohing and aahing. Both these dishes had unfortunately been showed up by their supporting acts. Fortunately pudding came to the rescue. Bitter chocolate and hazlenut croccantini (£7) arrived looking like a Miró painting on black slate and tasted a bit like a chocolate cheesecake – if the base was made out of Toblerone blitzed in a food processor. This is a big tick in my book, in case you’re wondering.

I’ve been giving good reviews left, right and centre recently and I’m itching to give someone a slagging. It won’t be Manicomio though. On a warm night, it’s pretty wonderful sitting next to the Saatchi Gallery with wine from their long list of 120. Recommended.

Manicomio Chelsea, 85 Duke of York Square, London, SW3; www.manicomio.co.uk; 020 7730 3366

Restaurants |