What: An expensive but purportedly casual new modern Italian at Mayfair’s venerable Brown’s Hotel in the space that was until recently occupied by Mark Hix.
Who: German-born Italian food maestro Heinz Beck. He holds three Michelin stars at his Rome flagship La Pergola and has put his name to a number of other restaurants across the world. This isn’t this international heavyweight’s first London outing: Heinz oversaw Aspleys at The Lanesborough Hotel between 2009 and 2013 and reassessed the market with a pop-up called ORA at Brown’s Hotel late last year.
The vibe: The fabric of the listed, wood-panelled room has not been changed but the interior has been brightened up with striking botanically-themed wall paper and a new colour palette of greens and turquoises. The restaurant now has its own entrance.
The food: Beck describes his food as light, Mediterranean cuisine that reflects the heritage of Italian cuisine, and he’s right on the money. The menu just about follows the traditional Italian meal structure with sections for apertivi; insalate and antipasti; primi; pesce; and carne. Dishes on the first few sections of the menu range from about £15 to £25 and fish and meat mains are around the £30 mark. With the exception of the pasta dishes and main courses, portions are on the small side.
On the menu: A number of Beck’s signature dishes at La Pergola are available, including his famous fagotelli carbonara (an inside-out take on the famous Roman pasta dish that sees tortellini-like pasta filled with cheese and egg sauce). Another pasta dish from his Rome flagship is cacio e pepe topped with lime-zest marinated langoustine, which is a much better idea than it sounds. Dishes created especially for London include grilled Scottish scallops with green and white asparagus; roasted seabass with aubergine, pine nuts and tomato; and grilled Norfolk chicken breast, baby gem and Cardoncelli mushrooms
And another thing: Beck at Browns was never going to be a candidate for cheap eats lists but many have been shocked by the enthusiastic pricing, largely because the Albemarle Street restaurant has been positioned as a casual and affordable experience. By most people’s standards it’s far from it, but that’s not to say it won’t do well in Mayfair.