Review: Ristorante Frescobaldi
I was once given five minutes by a friend at a bar to come back with a free drink, after a brief conversation where he assumed I could have ‘anyone’ buy my drinks when I went out. Never one to turn down a challenge, I scanned the bar and saw all the immediately nearby men already leering over their surrounding females. I decided I could flatter my ego, or save my breath. Choosing the latter I marched up to the bar and explained the scenario to the barman – grinning back at me – he asked me what I was drinking, and what sex my company was. I returned with 2 cosmos, 2 beers and a successful wink, in 3 minutes flat.
The same brief sense of panic flashed over me when I was told to ‘find a date’ to visit the new gastro-charm of Burlington Place, W1, Ristorante Frescobaldi. And then I remembered, I don’t need a date, when I have friends that drag me to Barry’s Bootcamp four times a week, and so whose souls are crying out for a meal that isn’t a protein shake. So, once again, finding the loophole in the clause, and galloping through it, I arrived at the Frescobaldi family’s first standalone restaurant in the UK.
Now any family, whose heritage is best described as a wine dynasty for over 7 centuries, with 9 estates, is an honorary family of mine. And as you step inside, ‘dynasty’ does spring to mind over ‘familial.’ The interior is prestigious and tasteful, with a fire-lit ambience, and as the lovely host Miriam asks us if she can take our coats, my friend yelps “no thanks!” and I bravely shrug mine off in the hopes that keeping my silk scarf on and re-fiddling it into an Italian style drape will make up for the fact that I am wearing work out leggings, inside this, well, mini-palace hall.
The menu at Frescobaldi, is truly Tuscan, but if you might not have guessed this, say, on the occasion you may be escorted to your table blindfolded, you would certainly realise this after a brief conversation with the charming restaurant manager Giusseppe who would ceremoniously finish every sentence with “Viva Italia!’ After my 5th ‘Viva Italia” several thoughts were at the tip of my tongue: “Aha. I was right. I have stepped into a Tuscan royal court.” “Where are the ballot papers, I believe I can vote now” and “I haven’t had a single sip of wine yet, why am I echoing the Viva-Italias?”
Introductions and patriotisms out of the way, we were able to ogle the menu. There are few things that will turn me as soft in the middle, as soft burrata, which we decided to team with the sliced Angus beef fillet carpaccio for starters. The combination of these two plates, make for a starter to end all starters. I felt like this must have been a test of ‘pair the starters’ which I had to have passed; as our doting and most polite waiter Antonio, sliced and served us each, I could see myself and my company squinting to ensure he was giving us equal portions. All is fair in friendship and food, after all. The burrata, soft, without tasting too creamy, or heavy, with its flagrant basil pesto drizzle, melts into a mouthful with the thinly sliced and exquisitely marinated beef carpaccio like warm sugar. I contemplated asking for ‘the same again, thank you’ and adding a ‘viva italia’ to validate it as a perfectly normal request. Unfamiliar with Frescobaldian humour, I resisted.
Moving onto the ox-tail ravioli with pecorino to share, perhaps my expectations had been too high. By too high, I refer to the home-made pasta stall I was once dragged to on my first visit to Stratford in 26 years of being a Londoner, as my friend claimed it was the ‘best pasta in London.’ Where as I doubted at the time that the essence of mama-Amalfi had manifested itself in no other than East London’s Westfield mall, I dutifully obliged. Never having understood before how pasta could vary in taste from ‘pasta’ every single time – I now suddenly knew. With hearty sauces and floury, perfectly textured ravioli, this was the pasta to beat. Frescobaldi’s ox-tail ravioli revived this memory in me, and then ended it. Where as the ravioli itself, homemade, and filled generously was tasty enough, the stewey over-salted sauce made me think of this beef-stew dish (with boiled eggs, but I digress), that my mother has been cooking, and I have been fleeing since I was seven.
For a swift recovery however, we moved onto the secondi, of fillet of beef with black cabbage and pumpkin, as well as the veal cutlet with mashed potato and mushrooms. Where as this sounds far more creative on the menu in Italian (costoletta di vitello con pure di patate e funghi) it tastes just as pleasing in any language. The infusions mixed into the jus for both plates complement the succulent meats perfectly. Cue, when no one was looking we would 1-2-3-and-dart a spoonful of our respective dishes onto each other’s plates. Quite the experts if you ask me – sharing food since 2014.
After bullying my bootcamp buddy into obliging to desert, we ended our night with the Apple Cake with Cinnamon and Brownie with Raspberry Icecream. I will get to the Brownie in a minute, but for the second time this evening I found myself cursing the ghost of gastronomy past, as I likened our Apple Cake to the heavenly diabetic equivalent of The King’s Road’s Cadogan Arms. If only because no one wants to feel like their apple has been diced and boiled, or that their cinnamon is a missing person, then this was perhaps a slight disappointment. That said, whatever the Italian is for ‘Brownie’, it doesn’t actually mean, Brownie. What we received was closer to a baked-double layered biscuit base. Basically: a cheesecake base with no cheese. Just base. A double layer of it, topped with the raspberry scoop. Shoving the raspberry out of the way, and pretending to generously offer it to my friend, I dug into every girl’s dream: the ‘just base’ cheesecake. I see how this might be too long (and slightly confusing) for the menu, so ‘brownie’ will do, but there you go: I’ve told you it exists and where it can be found now.
Certainly worth a visit, if not for the ravioli, then for the class and cosiness which this restaurant embodies. The beautiful interior, which best resembles the stage of a movie-set dinner-party scene, makes for the perfect gathering be it large or small – Frescobaldi can and will accommodate; with a subtle and surprising menu, with their hospitable, nimble, and warm staff, and with their humble yet wonderful sommelier Tasseo, who after such captivating retellings of the origin and production of each wine he presented, apologized ‘my English gets better after a few glasses’, to which I responded, ‘that’s absolutely fine, mine gets worse!’
Monday – Sunday: 12pm to 2:30pm, 6pm to 11pm
15 New Burlington Place, London W1S 2HX
020 3693 3435