Osteria Dell'Angolo, 47 Marsham Street, London, SW1
Is a Conservative victory all that's needed to reverse the fortunes of Westminster's Osteria Dell'Angolo?
Sunday 18 April 2010
Glancing around on a Monday lunchtime at Osteria Dell'Angolo, a posh Italian in Westminster, the outlook is pretty bleak. It's about a third full, which must be below break-even, given the location and number of staff. Will it be around this time next year?
To be fair, few high-end restaurants in the Westminster Village are full at the moment. The majority of MPs are out of town, either on the campaign trail or canvassing in their constituencies. Not that they'd be footing the bill in any case – their expenses have never stretched to expensive lunches, even during the golden era. That would be where journalists come in. But we've been feeling the pinch.
Luckily for people such as Claudio Pulze, who owns Osteria Dell'Angolo along with the nearby Al Duca, hope is at hand. If the Conservatives win the election, Cameron has pledged to end all dining subsidies within the Palace of Westminster. That means Harris's, the greasy spoon in between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, will be charging full price for a full English, while The Adjournment, the upmarket restaurant within Portcullis House reserved for MPs and their guests, won't be much cheaper than Shepherd's. For the restaurants dotted around Westminster, happy days will be here again.
Osteria Dell'Angolo opened in February last year and, after an initial hiccup in which head chef Michele Brogi departed, has established itself as a "power restaurant". Pulze certainly has plenty of experience when it comes to fine dining. His previous successes include Canteen, Aubergine and Zafferano and among the head chefs who have worked for him are Marcus Wareing, Giorgio Locatelli and Gordon Ramsay. Not bad for a man who started his career as a bellboy.
The interior looks expensive, as befits a bolthole for Britain's political elite. It's all dark wood and soft lighting, with plenty of booths tucked out of sight for the discreet exchange of plain brown envelopes. For those plotting leadership coups, there is even a private dining-room.
I've arranged to meet Rachel Wolf, the founder of the New Schools Network, and James Marshall, a House of Commons researcher, to discuss my plans to set up Britain's first "free school". They both seem pleasantly surprised that I'm taking them to such a grand restaurant. We set about ordering with enthusiasm, all cross-referencing to make sure we're having different things.
After five minutes, a waiter appears and plonks down a tiny morsel of unidentifiable meat. For a second I think this is my first course – roast quail wrapped with pancetta – but it turns out to be the amuse-bouche. Phew! When the quail finally arrives, it is packed with flavour and it isn't long before I've abandoned my knife and fork to tear at it with my teeth. James is fairly pleased with his chickpea and cuttlefish soup – "fish a bit rubbery, though" – while Rachel thinks her octopus carpaccio is "overdressed".
For my main, I opt for fillet of beef with sautéed spinach and a timbale of potato, ham and leeks, while James has risotto with artichokes and pecorino cheese, and Rachel has squid-ink tagliolini with courgettes and scallops.
My beef is perfectly cooked, but the reduction accompanying it is a little metallic, and the timbale is wafer-thin. Rachel praises her scallops – "delicious" – and James declares his risotto "spot-on", but all three of us are not quite as blown away as we'd been expecting.
For pudding, we share a chocolate tortino with vanilla sauce and almond crumble which, judging from the speed with which it disappears, we all like a good deal.
I have to confess to being a little disappointed, given the size of Pulze's reputation. The new chef, Massimiliano Vezzi, isn't quite firing on all cylinders, not paying as much attention to dressings and sauces as he should. The service is below par, too, with members of staff milling about at the rear of the restaurant, seemingly oblivious to the needs of their customers. It took me 10 minutes to get the bill.
I've no doubt Osteria Dell'Angolo will survive, but it has to raise its game to give the Cinnamon Club a run for its money. Unless things improve, it will be that upmarket Indian that benefits from Cameron's clampdown, not this upmarket Italian. n
Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets
Osteria Dell'Angolo 47 Marsham Street, London SW1, tel: 020 3268 1077 Lunch, Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat. Lunch for three, including service, about £100
More Italian jobs
4 Norfolk Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 839 6644
Spectacularly located in the old Stock Exchange, this 10-year-old all-rounder offers high-class classic cooking, from quality ingredients, and excellent service; it is, however, not cheap
9 Station St, Kibworth, Leicester, tel: 0116 279 6260
Some of the most authentic Tuscan cooking outside of Tuscany – the Poli family's decade-old venture still offers accomplished food at very good prices, and is often very busy
Caldesi in Campagna
Old Mill Lane, Bray, Berkshire, tel: 01628 788 500
Adding further lustre to Bray's already faultless gastronomic credentials, this buzzy and elegant newcomer offers a pleasing, notionally rustic Italian cucina
Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.com
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Life & Style blogs
Ebola outbreak: Survivor William Pooley is flown to US to give doctor with virus emergency blood transfusion
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
Tezenis removes 'crime scene' pants from Oxford Street store after backlash over 'rape' connotations
iOS 8: 6 reasons you might want to hold off updating
Olympic diver Tom Daley makes his modelling debut for Adidas
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
iJobs Food & Drink
£18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...
Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...
£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...
£15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...