Pret a Diner – Italians do it Better:
Take one beautiful Grade II building, strip it back and then in the way that Italians do so well, style it! Add contemporary art, lighting and designer furnishing. Showcase the concept that ‘Italians Do it Better’ by taking some of Italy’s most exciting new Art talent and setting their works against a great London building. Create a fine dining venue where it’s possible to juxtapose traditional and modern Italian cuisine showcasing some of the finest chefs from Italy against Locatelli’s modern interpretation of Italian classics. A fashion show of avant-garde food and art.
Invite people to try. Ask them to walk up the sweeping marble staircase passing a huge red cross by Vittorio Corsini and into a high ceiling room complete with illuminated basketball net, empty champagne bottles hung chandelier style and contemporary Italian art. Transport them into another world of style. Then, let them eat.
Pret a Diner is in London for just 52 days, with Giorgio Locatelli creating traditional menus throughout the event to complement some of the most famous chefs in Italy, each providing a ten day showcase of their food. Norbert Niederkofler is a two star Michelin chef from the Italian Alps and the second chef to take centre stage at Pret a Diner. I was delighted to be invited to visit the restaurant and enjoy his menu and the venue itself.
We started with an amuse bouche of a tiny tomato topped bruschetta complemented by a cappuccino foam. To accompany, bread in brown paper bags, small morsels of ciabatta to nibble.
The starter was a slow cooked veal with tuna tartar and a fresh tomato and olive concasse. The crusted veal served cold was meltingly tender yet still pink and the tuna tartar a perfect, if unexpected accompaniment.
Next, Conchiglioni. A duck ragout with candied green olives and orange zest. Lightly smoked duck breast added depth to a delicately scented pasta dish that paid tribute to the carbohydrate filled dishes of the Alps.
Then a taste of Locatelli’s menu, A classic dish, adapted from a traditional Italian fish and lentil stew, this was a pan fried fillet of cod served on a bed of green lentils with a parsley sauce. While the flavour combination was beautifully balanced, this dish seems just a little over cooked. Perhaps we talked too much, or perhaps by fitting an extra dish into a complex tasting menu it spoilt some careful timings.
Beef brisket in a mustard crust was slow cooked beef, sliced thinly and then pressed with layers of mustard for 48 hours before being served in a mustard crust with some exquisite turned carrots and jus. For me, this was a good example of the fusion of Alpine cuisine, closer to a Swiss or Austrian dish than to what I imagine as being Italian.
Sadly I have a sweet tooth. So for me, the tiramisu from Locatelli’s menu was divine. Incredibly light yet still with all the amaretti, chocolate and coffee textures and flavours you expect from a tiramisu.
Our second dessert was a beautiful concoction of apples. The menu talks of three; a jelly, sorbet which was used to fill apple segments and a foam, but the dish also had slices of dried apple and was beautifully constructed. I’m slightly disappointed that my flash failed at this point, so I can’t show you this composition of vibrant green apples which, was the prettiest of the dishes we were served.
There’s more to see at Pret a Diner, with exhibits from artists including Olivia Steele, Stefano Mezzaroma, Monica Bonvinci and Giovani Ozzola. And a rather excellent looking cocktail bar staffed by 69 Colebrooke Row. It’s not a cheap event, with the set menu at £75 but it’s an experience and a chance to enjoy Michelin star food at accessible prices. And it’s an experience that, for me at least, took me into another world where art, style and food met to produce the showcase of ‘Italian’s do it Better’.
Pret a Diner is at
50 St James’s
Their events are International, for more information on other locations check their site.
The classy photographs of the venue (top and bottom) were taken by official photographer for Pret a Diner London Rick Roxborough. The slightly dodgy food shots (well, I AM supposed to be more interested in eating it) were taken by me:)