By Emmeline Westin
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As I walked through the lobby of Crowne Plaza The City I remembered the fiery spices of the Sichuan cuisine from The Chinese Cricket Club, which I fondly had discovered a few months ago. However, this time, instead of embarking on a gourmet trip to Asia, I was bound for the Mediterranean. Crowne Plaza boasts two restaurants, and now it was Refettorio’s turn to rock my taste buds.
Under the direction of Giorgio Locatelli, Refettorio is an established easygoing Italian restaurant in the City, which is considerably less showy than Locatelli’s other glam spot Locanda Locatelli over in Marble Arch. The ambiance is open and friendly, with a predominant business crowd, as can be expected from its location. More suits than shorts so to speak. Comfy brown leather chairs and wood panelling form part of the slightly dark interior. It’s smart but not intimidating.
We were invited to celebrate Refettorio’s re-launch with a seasonal asparagus menu, specially put together by Head Chef Alessandro Bay. Locatelli’s forthcoming book “Made in Sicily” was also part of the celebration package, as was the upcoming black and white truffle menus.
The 2-week asparagus promotion menu is light and fresh, and also an absolute bargain at £35 per head for four courses. If anyone is keen to eat seasonal food, asparagus is the produce du jour.
We occupied the private room Il Salone, near the kitchen, and were in fact so close you could almost hear the asparagus tips being chopped off. The first dish that was sent out was a salad of poached eggs, asparagus, parmesan and rocket salad. We agreed it was a smash hit at first try, so simple, yet so fresh.
Simple and seasonal is Refettorio in a nutshell. The restaurant “showcases traditional regional Italian food”, but doesn’t flirt with one sole region specifically. Maybe that’s why the food lacks a bit of character. The main course, pan-fried salmon with asparagus puree, olive tapenade and cherry tomatoes showed great composition but was almost too spartan in my opinion. The portions are very generous and the best dish of the night, the fresh spaghettini with sliced scallops, chives and asparagus tips, proved too much for me, even though I wanted to lick the bowl.
By this time, we’d come to the end of the asparagus dominance. Tiramisu took over with its fluffy Mascarpone cheese and caffeinated sponge base, and was by far the lightest and best tiramisu I’ve ever had. I suddenly couldn’t engage in any conversation. It was only me and the tiramisu left in the world. And the crunchy shell it was served in.
Homemade amaretti and coffee finished our meal and I contemplated walking home, although everything on the menu had in fact been far from heavy.
Refettorio’s seasonal menu is a great way of sampling four great dishes to a very reasonable price. The restaurant tends to be busy around lunch time so if you’re in the area and stuck for choice, Refettorio promises to do a job well done. By the time this blog is published, the white truffle promotion might have kicked in, and one can only hope there’s a tiramisu lurking at the bottom of the menu.
Looking for more Italian Restaurant inspiration? Check out the Top 10 Best Italian Restaurants in London