Savini at Criterion
The Criterion first opened in 1873 and has been a restaurant of renown ever since. Grade II listed, it is a fine of example of a Neo-Byzantine style dining room. Neo-posh, more like! The gold mosaic ceiling, marble, inlaid with mother of pearl, jade and turquoise and enormous crystal chandeliers are all stunning. If you like opulence, this is the place. The lap of luxury in the heart of London.
The restaurant has changed hands many times, including those of Marco Pierre White. In recent years however, it went downhill and very nearly hit bottom. The new owners, the Gatto family of the equally swish Savini in Milan, have given the room a makeover and put high-end, regional Italian on the menu. With mixed results. The huge photos of modern cities and pop music in the background seem incongruous to the lavish setting whereas the lounge and retail section manage to harmonize old and new. The food, by Chef Giovanni Bon, is a good blend of classic and modern. It is however, very expensive. Luxury has a price.
A wonderful selection of bread appeared unbidden. Fennel, multi-seed, ciabatta... served with Savini's own, top notch olive oil. It is tempting to buy a bottle on the way out.
Mille-feuille of foie gras with plum compote, shallot chutney, pan brioches and balsamic vinegar drops (£18) stopped the show in the first scene! The multi-layered terrine was topped with a brūlée sugar glaze and a touch of sea salt. The range of flavours were beautifully balanced. Opulence on a plate!
Burrata with plum tomatoes, rocket, basil sauce and crunchy bread (£11.50) was the opposite end of the spectrum. Simple with absolutely no fuss. The burrata was very good quality which the tomatoes didn't quite match.
We then shared a grilled turbot for 2 with seasonal vegetables and lemon sauce (£57!!!). An excellent fish, it has to be said, filleted at the table and served with a very light velvety sauce. With this, a side of potatoes gratin with milk, parmesan and smoked bacon (£6.50). Very tasty, but an unnecessary addition. It was a big fish!
A bottle of Falanghina, Terredora, 2014 (£38) was a good and comparatively reasonable choice with the entire meal. Not complex, but crisp, with lots of citrus, a hint of apple and no oak. A good wine with fish.
Dessert was hit and miss. Black cherry and chocolate mousse with mint glacé (£8) was a beautiful sight. I was dubious however, at the sight of 2 maraschino cherries. Justifiably it turned out. There was no hint of black cherry or the black forest cake this combination calls to mind. Instead, a sugar sweet mousse with neither depth nor contrast, garnished with cocktail cherries from a jar.
Much better was a Dulcey (blonde) chocolate mousse with almond and caramel biscuit (£8.50). Well-constructed with a caramel centre and a touch of salt for balance.
Service is excellent. As rich as the room.