EATING OUT: The emperor's new clothes

SARTORIA: 20 Savile Row, London W1. Tel: 0171 534 7000. Open daily for lunch from noon to 3pm and Monday to Saturday for dinner 6.30 to 11.15pm. Average a la carte price, pounds 35 per head. Credit cards accepted

LOOK, I'VE had this great idea. The world may seem full of theme pubs and restaurants at the moment but there are still a few gaps in the market - so how about a bar for accountants? You could call it On The Money. A place for all those men in neat beards to sip beer from the bottle and get into polite little fights: "Are you looking at me, pal, or offering sound fiscal advice?"

Don't think so? Then how about a fast-food joint for computer analysts called Megabyte? Or a charcuterie called Dead Good, where the waiters dress as undertakers and serve only cold meats?

Maybe not. But none of those ideas are any sillier than the latest lazy wheeze from Sir Terence Conran. Just how long did it take the designer knight and his courtiers to come up with the name Sartoria for premises that are almost in Savile Row, a road in the West End of London that is famous for traditional tailoring? I say "almost" because the bulk of the space occupied by this new restaurant is actually in New Burlington Street (presumably Bertie's didn't have quite the same ring to it).

Sartoria is the latest in a series of Conran restaurants built on the same basic principles: find a space, choose a name vaguely associated with the building or area (Pont de la Tour at Tower Bridge, Blueprint at the Design Museum, Bibendum in the old Michelin building) and decorate it with the relevant ephemera. Bob's yer uncle, Tony's yer best mate, and the knighthood's in the post.

As you would expect, the details in the decor at Sartoria are exquisite. A silver "S" is embroidered on white linen, the glasses carry button logos and the ashtray is in the shape of a coiled measuring tape. There is a beautifully lit photograph of a pair of tailor's scissors on the cover of the menu, and the cloth pattern of one of Rex Harrison's suits hangs on an otherwise plain white wall.

Best of all, a pair of outsized tailor's dummies stand guard by the door, headless and gross. Her pendulous breasts fall onto wide hips, he has grown vast on the rich pastures of an expense account.

The devil-may-care will react to these dummies by giving a full-bodied, Nicholas-Soames-at-table laugh and ordering another bottle of Champagne, on the company. Those of us who feel these exaggerated torsos are uncomfortably close to our own will pretend to share the joke, but ask for mineral water to wash down a plate of green salad.

Anyone who is of generous girth should get to their table as quickly as possible in order to claim the best seat. At ours, one person sat on a conventional restaurant chair of black wood, while the other sank back in comfort into a sofa. The room was light, airy and calm, its neutral tones punctuated by the small glass vase of purple flowers on every table. It was a weekday lunchtime, and the place was about two-thirds full, surprising for a restaurant that only opened in June. Almost everyone wore expensive suits and talked quietly but fast, as though completing delicate negotiations. The waitress was also dressed expensively and well, in a black Nehru jacket with gold buttons, black trousers and a white apron.

We didn't know what sort of food to expect, and Sartoria sent out mixed signals. Savile Row itself is about as old-fashioned, end-of-empire, stiff-upper-lip English as you can get. The outside of the restaurant, with its black and gold railings, long ramps and windows opening onto the street, looked Parisian. The main dining area's minimalist decor in black, white and grey is vaguely Japanese.

The wine list is long but exclusively Italian, with a catty commentary on the ability (or otherwise) of each region to produce a decent drink. The menu is Anglo-Italian, and surprisingly familiar. After a basket of bread baked in Sartoria's own ovens, dipped in olive oil, my starter was insalata of artichokes, boiled salted lemons and almonds. For the first few mouthfuls this was a sensation: the bitterness of the lemons overwhelmed the bland artichokes (they were, after all, only there for the texture) then the almonds arrived to save the day like a seventh cavalry of crunch. All good fun, but a whole plate of it was just too much of a struggle.

My friend Jane had mozzarella di bufala with figs, mint and red basil. The cheese was apparently terrific. So terrific, in fact, that Jane wouldn't let me anywhere near it. While I made vain lunges for her fork we chewed over the question of just where we had eaten food like this before.

The answer was right there on the menu, half-way down the dessert list: Chocolate Nemesis River Cafe. We later discovered that the chef used to work down in Hammersmith, and that since the dish is notoriously difficult to make, its presence was a bit of showing off - but it still seemed remarkably generous of Sir Terence to give a name-check to a rival establishment, particularly one where the food is so much better.

Anyone who has bought into the myth of Conran by eating at one of his restaurants will know exactly what the dishes are like: beautifully presented and fresh (organic produce being used wherever possible) but far less interesting than the building in which they are served.

I'd like to say wonderful things about the oily quail wings that were served with zucchini and grapes as my main course, but that would be dishonest. Better to let them pass without remark, as we did on the day. The side dish of waterlogged spinach remained untouched. Jane's scallops with borlotti beans and salsa were no better than you might get (for considerably less money) at an ordinary brasserie. For all its affectations, Sartoria was beginning to feel like a bit of a dog's dinner. Or, as Sir Terence would no doubt prefer, a cena del cane.

Not for the first time in my life, salvation came in a pudding-bowl: roasted strawberries that burst in the mouth, arranged around saffron ice-cream. This was feel-good food - full of creamy, syrupy tastes but light enough (it was fruit after all) to convince the brain it was calorie- free, so there was no danger of turning out like one of those obese dummies. Seconds, please, came the cry.

Or rather it would have done had we been able to afford such luxury, but at pounds 50 a head it was out of the question. Naturally, at that price, when we were so obviously paying for the style and not the food, I wanted to steal an ashtray as a souvenir.

Later, walking down Savile Row, we passed assistants daydreaming in empty shops and tailors scissoring by basement windows, and wondered how few of them could afford to eat at Sartoria. But then how many mice go to Disneyland?

If you believe the hype about Conran, or if the boss is paying, then go to Sartoria by all means. If not, then buy a sandwich, walk straight past, and spend the money on a decent bit of clobber. You'll regret it otherwise.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine