Pret a Diner London – Review

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.

Pret a Diner, 50 St James's

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.

Pret a Diner Italians do it better

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.

Italians do it better - veal with tuna Pret a Diner

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.

Pret a Diner - 50 St James's

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.

beef brisket pret a diner

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.

Pret a Diner Italians do it Better

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 50 St James

 

Pret a Diner is at

50 St James’s
London
SW1

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:)

 

Pret a Diner on Urbanspoon

4.5 / 5 stars     
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Comments

  1. Looks like a great experience. Is that where all the beautiful people hang out then? Looks like you had a nice time. Lucky girl.
    Really like the first photo – very atmospheric!

    • the two *really good* photos are professional shots sent to me by the PR. I’m waiting for her to let me know what accreditation I should add. It was GREAT fun, if they turn up in Hong Kong, or anywhere else you travel to, do go along. I’ve just added their link to the blog so you can check them out properly!

  2. Hi Fiona, I’m glad you like the photos – I was responsible for the photography at this event. Feel free to check out my other work at http://www.rickroxburgh.com. I was lucky enough to be invited for diner following the launch and the food was superb. Best, Rick

  3. The atmosphere of the restaurant was ridiculous. We had to wait in a corner of the bar for an hour for our table and even then the host who was trying shamefully hard to be hip spent 30 minutes explaining the ‘philosophy’ of the ‘restaurant.’ The menu offered only two choices. I was in a party of five and every single one of us was horrified by the poor quality of the food. It had all obviously been prepared before hand to save time. Nobody at my table even finished any of their courses because not only was the food not good, it was actually very bad.
    If you are looking for a restaurant trying desperately hard to be hip that charges several hundred pounds for food so bad you will not even be able to finish your meal and that will also require you to wait an hour while being pestered by the untrained wait staff then this is your place.
    Just another note – despite only having two options on the menu and a tiny drinks list many ingredients were not available so were simply missing from the tiny dishes.
    The cocktail the pretentious host recommended tasted like cough syrup. The chef and owners should be truly ashamed.

    • One of the dangers of press reviews is that we CAN get special treatment. Not all my reviews are press invites, and I disclose those that are. I loved the place, the design and the art…and for the most part the food we were served was very good and the quality excellent. One or two courses a bit less so, but as we were given half of the alternative menu, I put that down to timing (see my comment about the Locatelli cod dish). The chefs changed every couple of weeks, so I don’t know if you had the same menu as me and obviously I can’t comment on what you were served.

      I write an honest review about what I am given on the night. I try to surreptitiously check that those on nearby tables look happy. ats the end of the day much of it is down to personal tate. I also try to make sure the food photos are mine, not press shots…even though that means they are not always so beautiful! At the end of the day much of it is down to personal taste – as an example, my favourite dish on the evening was the veal, whilst most of my dining companions preferred the pressed beef.

      I do think the organisers set themselves something of a challenge and it is obvious that for some people they failed. I have a fellow food blogging friend who didn’t go to the press night, which was quite early on in the series, and who didn’t have a great experience either.

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