Having not seen my boyfriend’s mum for nearly six months, her arrival in London called for something special and we wanted to take her to a restaurant befitting of the occasion, with great food that also felt relaxed.
Upon recommendation we chose Bernardi’s, an Italian restaurant opened at the end of September by the Bernardi brothers, previously part of the Cubitt House Brand. With an experienced core team comprising of operations director Zoe Charlton-Brown, formally of Cafe Murano and head chef Sabrina Gidda, a two time Roux scholarship finalist, Bernardi’s certainly has the credentials for success.
Situated on the corner of Seymour Street in a Victorian town house, Bernadi’s minimalist logo, structured black panelling and prominent glass windows are eye catching in their simplicity. It is a wholly elegant looking establishment. Inside, the open plan restaurant is smart and inviting. We are greeted in a warm manner that strikes the right balance between professionalism and informality, making the diner feel well looked after yet at ease with the surroundings.
Seated at a round table, the preferential arrangement for sociable larger gatherings, we start with an aperitif. With a menu of unusual and delicious sounding cocktails, we each opt to try something different. I go for a Bretelle, a combination of Gin Mare, Green Chartruese, Martini Bianco, rosemary and lime. The botanical properties of the gin are enhanced by the use of fresh herbs, resulting in a cocktail that is well balanced in sweetness. The boys opt for different takes on the classic Negroni, each of which get high praise, his Aunt goes for a Lecca Lecca Lunna, an impossibly easy drinking cocktail comprised of Barolo Chinato, Pomegranate and prosseco.
Following on from our apperitifs we start with the Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Arancini and Potato, Scamorza and Red Onion Pizzetta. The arancini is fantastic, the flavour of the strong cheese is tempered by the butternut squash, a classic Autumnal flavour pairing that once deep fried becomes addictively good. In comparison the pizzetta is of less interest, a beautiful base but in need of some thyme, or more red onion, to lift the potato and cheese.
We then decide to share three starters. Having already consumed a fair amount of cheese (I have to say this was the table’s verdict not mine) we choose against the Burratina (woe), opting for the Rose Veal Tonnato, Barley Salad and Charred Squid.
The barley salad is well dressed with the right amount of oregano. The vegetables are kept chunky to enhance their individual flavours, making the salad all the more fresh and wholesome- an ideal light lunch. Underneath the charred squid’s crispy exterior lies the most unbelievably tender meat. A textural delight, that converted my crustacean dodging boyfriend for the evening. The unexpected delight however, was the Rose Veal Tonnato with a Parsley, Red Onion and Caper salad. Honestly on paper, it was the starter that interested me the least yet it was actually the favourite. The milky qualities of the rose veal, along with the subtlety of the tuna mayonnaise dressing and the acidity of the caper and red onion was heavenly- an extremely clever balance of flavours.
For the mains, I chose the Pork Collar with Fregola and Clams. A combination that never fails to be delicious, the saltiness of the seafood acting as an instant cure for the pork. The crunch of the fregola added great texture to the falling apart meat. The Fish with Fennel and New Potatoes was found to be perfectly seasoned, with the garnishes complimenting the delicacy of the fish.
My boyfriend’s Orecchiette with Nduja and Brocolli was the type of dish that you want to indulge in by yourself, late at night, eating a sinful amount, with no one there to judge you. His uncle’s Lamb Rump with Lentils was a fantastic dish. The lentils had a clear acidity to them that cut through the fattiness of the lamb; it was simple, clean in flavour and superbly executed, alike to all of the dishes of the evening.
Finally a nod to the desserts, all of which showed great finesse. The Coffee Semifreddo, Gianduja mousse and Vanilla Pannacotta were all intensely flavoured yet felt deceivingly light. For five people who had previously thought themselves to be too full for dessert we had no trouble in polishing them off.Behind Bernardi’s relaxed exterior lies a well oiled machine- a sophisticated take on casual dining that is sure to excel and definitely warrants a visit.
Bernardi’s, 62 Seymour Street, London W1H 5BN 9/10 ££