Eating Out: Of princesses and pees


15 Beauchamp Place, London SW3. Tel: 0171 838 1500 Open Monday to Saturday, 12.30-3pm for lunch and 7-11pm for dinner; Set lunch menus: pounds 24 for two courses, pounds 28.50 for three. Average a la carte price for lunch, pounds 50 per person. Credit cards accepted

A FRIEND of mine has a theory that there's a strong correlation between the state of a restaurant's loos and the state of its kitchen: if they're sparkling clean and attractive, you're OK; if they're not, get out fast or you'll almost certainly die of salmonella, botulism or necrotising fasciitis.

If my friend is right, then the kitchens at Floriana are not just among the cleanest but also the most exciting in the whole of London. I can say this with some confidence, because when I visited its urinals the other day I enjoyed quite the most thrilling, exotic, spectacular pee of my life.

No, it wasn't because I bumped into George Michael (though come to think of it, Floriana is very much his sort of place). It was because of the cunning design of the urinal bowls. They're made from very thin, very shiny stainless steel, and directly above them is a spotlight which - get this - actually gets brighter when you're having a pee. The result beats Villa d'Este any day. Not only does your wee-wee make a particularly attractive tinkly noise as it hits the thin metal, but it sparkles and splashes and shimmers like some bijou Philippe Starck fountain.

I'm not sure that the people who run Floriana will thank me for mentioning this, since I get the impression that they take themselves very, very seriously. As seriously as you only can when your restaurant is co-owned by someone as classy as Ivana Trump's ex-fiance Riccardo Mazzucchelli; when your decor is an elegant symphony of beige, beige and beige; when your customers (ideally) all have surnames like Von Hapsburg, Bourbon and Agnelli; when your premises boasts an unrivalled location on London's super-fashionable Beauchamp Place.

Yes, yes, I'm taking the mickey. Of course I am. I'm pretty sure that was the main reason I was sent there. Because, let's face it, the sort of people who can afford to spend pounds 105 on a light lunch for two on a Saturday (presumably before blowing ten grand or so in the ridiculous rich-people-only boutiques that you find in that part of Knightsbridge) are probably not the sort of people who tend to read the Independent on Sunday. They read Hello! and the Almanach de Gotha and White Trash International instead.

That said, Floriana wouldn't be at all a bad place to go if you happened to be feeling particularly rich and fancied hanging out with the sort of people you never normally see in real life: men who think that cuff links and breast-pocket handkerchiefs constitute casual weekend dress; expensive women of a certain age in antique jewellery; pampered Euro 20- somethings wearing those brown tweed jackets and fawn trousers which they imagine make them look very English, but which actually make them look very foreign.

Another reason for coming is the food which, as Fay Maschler has observed, is a good deal better than the salad-munching X-rays who frequent Floriana deserve. It's all done by Fabio Trabocchi, a renowned Italian chef (obviously) who specialises in whatever the opposite of Rustic Tuscan is. Urban Milanese, maybe. His menu is absolutely stuffed with the sort of dishes you fancy eating when you really want to treat yourself: heavy on black and white truffles, wild mushrooms, lobster, crayfish and caviare. Such a pity that X and I chose to nuke our pal-ates beforehand with a couple of spicy Virgin Marys.

The best dishes - and is there any restaurant in Christendom where this isn't the case? - were the star-ters. X had a fabulously frothy, mushroomy funghi cappuccino. And so, it appeared, did everyone else in the restaurant. Except being super-rich, they had theirs as an extra in-between course instead of as a starter. I had the fairly boring-sounding scallops with cauliflower heads because I had decided to go for the cheapo pounds 28.50 daily specials menu instead of the a la carte. Which shows what a tightwad I can be, even when I'm eating on expenses.

Anyway, boring as they sounded, the scallops were a tour de force. The cauliflower is a stupid, smelly vegetable, but Trabocchi had cleverly turned this one into crisp, sweet roundels which complemented the scallops quite brilliantly. More impressive still were the pools of green oil served with it. Apparently, the primary ingredient was green peppers, though the taste that came through most prominently was a fabulously pungent essence of basil.

For the main course, X bagged the lobster dish that I'd wanted. She rated the lobster very tender and full of flavour, though she found the sauce a bit too rich for comfort (but then, what lobster reduction isn't?). She also liked the pureed celeriac in the ravioli that came with it. Unfortunately, it was so powerful it rather drowned the subtleties of the pasta.

If I have any reservations about my own pot-steamed free-range chicken with wild mushrooms, green sauce and crystallised mustard, it's because I prefer my food a bit more aggressively flavourful and in-your-face. But the breast of chicken was as succulent and crispy as any I have eaten, and the soup that it came in - bobbing with mini-vegetables and mushrooms - felt like the sort of thing one's Italian grandmother might have made, if one had an Italian grandmother. I wasn't convinced by the green sauce, though. Apparently, it was made of minced parsley and basil, but to me it tasted of lawn trimmings.

We finished by sharing a lethally rich, soft-centred, warm chocolate cake, which X thought was perfect because it had just the right amount of coffee in it and which I thought wasn't quite perfect because I hate food with coffee in it, specially when it's advertised as a chocolate cake. I do like coffee when it's served in espresso form, though, and the stuff they do at Floriana is buzzier than coke and considerably better value.

I felt a bit sorry not to have used the services of the sweet-looking wine waiter, but it was lunch-time so all we we wanted was a glass of Champagne.

You might be wondering - actually you probably won't, but what the hell - why my descriptions of some of the dishes were so vague. This is because at the end of lunch, I asked for a copy of the menu and the maitre d' wouldn't give me one because he didn't have enough to spare. He promised to fax me one on Monday morning, but didn't. So I thought, if he can't be arsed to perform a small service for someone who's blown pounds 105 (including pounds 15 tip) in his restaurant, then I can't be arsed to get the names of his chef's dishes right.

It could, of course, be that the moment I asked for the menu he sussed me for a critic and said to himself, "evil journalist scum". Or it could be that X and I just didn't look worth the effort. Certainly, while we were given a very warm welcome and impressively solicitous service (one waiter even took the trouble to put my side plate on my right-hand side so that it didn't fall on baby Ivo's head) for the first part of lunch, the staff seemed to lose interest later on, when two tables-worth of friends- of-the-proprietor rolled up. Pudding and coffee took ages to arrive, imperilling X's planned expedition to Joseph and Betsey Johnson. Which, as the sort of people who dine at Floriana might tell you, was a terrible crime indeed.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test