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EAT AND DRINK LONDON

London, autumn 2014. Where can you stay, have dinner, go for a drink? Above all, where must you go? The issue is both difficult and crucial, as the goal is to grasp what is glam, trendy, cool, fashionable in short, a multiform and fleeting ghost.
Feeling disoriented? Then, you must listen to the following debate engaging Federico, a nightspots specialist since childhood, and Mariachiara, the latest researcher in the field. The two experts meet one lazy morning at Daylesford café, just a few yards away from Sloane Square, in order to exchange their views in front of a fabulous organic brunch, offered by the illustrious Bamford farmhouse.
‘Let’s start with the hotels,’ begins Federico, skipping the introduction, ‘I would definitely recommend the Claridge’s and the Connaught, besides the Brown’s Hotel, the perfect accommodation for high-tea lovers’. ‘Absolutely,’ agrees Mariachiara, ‘but we must not forget three very nice townhouse hotels: No.11 Cadogan Gardens, the Cranley, and finally The Egerton House, where you can taste Antonio’s famous Martini'.
Regarding the cocktail, though, Federico cannot be persuaded: ‘the king of Martinis must be drunk at the Dukes Hotel, in St James’s. It’s by far the best cocktail bar in London and its elixir even helped Ian Fleming to write James Bond! But make sure your Martini is prepared by Alessandro Palazzi’ ‘Otherwise,’ Mariachiara is thinking, ‘for those who prefer to stay towards East London, there is the Charlotte Street Hotel, whose rooms are all individually designed. Besides, Charlotte Street gets very lively at night. It is no coincidence that the first Roka, which together with its partner Zuma, is the best Japanese restaurant in London, has opened just there.’
But Federico doesn’t agree: ‘the best Japanese in London is Nozomi, where the aperitivo is also super. The club is owned by Prince Max della Torre e Tasso and is the most glamorous in Knightsbridge.’ Here we are, Federico has said the magic word, mentioning, what’s more, Prince Max: with Carlo Carello, he is definitely the most influential guy as regards London nightlife.
Because night in London means Toy Room and Loulou’s, stopping at Boujis. ‘What about fish and seafood?’ askes Mariachiara, and Federico immediately replies: ‘For fish there’s just one name, Assunta Madre, you must go nowhere else.’ Mariachiara, then, is forced to play her highest card, the City’s skyscrapers: ‘surely, having a drink on the thirtieth floor with English businessmen is highly fashionable. The Sky Lounge has a beautiful terrace with an amazing view, but the liveliest spot above the clouds is Sushisamba: it’s worth going there just for the glass elevator, the cocktails, and the colourful costumes of the Brazilian dancers!’ ‘That sounds fun,’ concedes Federico, ‘but, to tell you the truth, my ideal night out begins at Vini Italiani or at Rocco, in Chelsea, feet on the ground. Shaken Campari, made by Sergio, homemade bread, olives and mortadella. Then, for meat, I usually go to Macellaio, in South Kensington, otherwise I choose a French restaurant: in Battersea there is Gazette, but when I feel like going as far as Shoreditch, I know Les Trois Garçons are waiting for me.
Talking of pubs, instead, I suggest the Westbourne, in Notting Hill.’ ‘Thank you, I’ll try it! I know a good pub as well, Gordon’s, but it’s always very crowded. It’s a dirty, candle-lit underground cellar the true English pub on the Thames shore, but serving excellent wine and cheese.’
‘Wine and cheese at the pub?’ Federico loves the idea, but Mariachiara has to tell him a sad truth: ‘unfortunately, according to my research, this year to be really cool you must forget French cheese and eat Peruvian. Peruvian restaurants are opening everywhere: to begin with, I must mention Coya in Green Park, which has an open grill.
Open grills are the rule at the moment, that’s why they are so popular in London. You’ll find Japanese grills, Mexican grills, American-style new grills…don’t miss the Hoxton Grill! Even Amaya, the best Indian restaurant in London, is happy to renounce Indian curries for the grill. And 34, the last restaurant of Caprice Holdings, a group comprising also famous private members clubs such as George, Harry’s Bar and Annabel’s, has imported a grill from Argentina. Obviously though, the true success is the Peruvian grill.’ ‘But Peruvian dishes are shamefully small’ comments Federico, sceptically.
‘Indeed, there’s a fast-spreading tapas-mania,’ Mariachiara continues, ‘José Tapas, a small sherry bar in London Bridge, is my favourite. But at Lima Floral, which has just opened in Soho, you can taste the piqueos, grilled Peruvian tapas! How about it?’ Federico pauses, enjoying the last sip of his coffee, then observes: ‘I have another address to give you; it’s a French restaurant, write it down.’ ‘You don’t understand,’ objects Mariachiara, ‘French cuisine is not’ But Federico insists: ‘write it down. This is French cuisine with a modern twist. The place is called Sketch.’ ‘And what does this twist consist of?’ ‘Cubes of fois gras,’ explains Federico regretfully, ‘but the place is psychedelic, you must see it.
The bar is inside a big white egg and the walls, in constant evolution, are covered with artists’ sketches.’ Mariachiara adds the new address to her list, but she can’t go before revealing to Federico her most exciting discovery, the Pollen Street Social restaurant.
‘I haven’t tried it yet, what’s the best dish?’ asks Federico. ‘The best quail cooked on pine needles you have ever had,’ she answers. For our experts, it’s now the time to leave.
Before parting, though, they enter together Partridges, an excellent deli shop right in front of Saatchi Gallery: both of them, in fact, after talking about restaurants for so long, wish to buy something good to eat at home.

Mariachiara Leteo and Federico San Giorgio

 

Mariachiara Leteo
 
Federico San Giorgio
 
Claridge's
 
Alessandro Palazzi
 
Nozomi
 
Trois Garçons

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