Restaurant Review: Refettorio, EC4
Aimee Brannen tries out an upmarket Italian
Set within the grandeur of the Crowne Plaza hotel in the heart of the city, Refettorio offers elegant dining and real traditional Italian food.
Even the pasta is made from scratch at this upmarket venue in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, established under the directorship of highly regarded
Italian Michelin-starred chef, Giorgio Locatelli, with one of his prot�g�s, Alessandro Bay, at the helm in the kitchen.
The super-sleek interior of the restaurant is warm and inviting, dimly lit with candles adorning the deep mahogany refectory-style tables running down the centre and the more intimate booths along the side, exuding modern Italian style.
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The atmosphere for a Wednesday evening wasn’t exactly buzzing, but the place was ticking over nicely with a smattering of city-types and hotel guests.
However, I can imagine that the ambience is much livelier come the weekend. Although formal, it was by no means uptight and instead had a laid-back vibe with friendly, affable service.
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Once we were seated a range of fresh, rustic Italian breads and olives were placed on the table and we ordered a bottle of Italian favourite Pinot Grigio from the extensive wine list.
The menu is certainly authentic with dishes showcasing the cuisine of various regions in Italy that one would never come across in any of the Italian chain restaurants that line our high streets these days.
To start with, I opted for pan fried scallops with chickpea puree, fried leeks and sweet and sour sauce.
The shellfish was cooked exactly as it should be with the puree a mild but tasty accompaniment, adding texture to the dish, and the dressing provided a welcome zesty dimension.
My friend went for the beef carpaccio with rocket salad, parmesan shavings and lemon dressing and commented on how delicious it was.
I was extremely tempted by the range of the unusual-sounding pasta dishes, particularly the potato and rosemary filled ravioli with cepes mushrooms.
But I ended up opting for the fillet of sea bass, celeriac puree, braised fennel and finished with balsamic
vinegar reduction, which was cooked to perfection.
The skin was golden and crispy and the fish moist, flaking with the touch of my fork.
The mild, delicate, but delicious natural properties of the flesh were complemented by the accompaniments and not overpowered by them, but the balsamic vinegar reduction gave the dish a nice kick.
Across the table, my fellow diner chose the grilled fillet of beef with saut�ed spinach, puff pastry and mushroom sauce.
He was bowled over by the generous cut and brilliant quality of the meat, which he said was superbly cooked and one of the best he had ever had.
Everything was topped off nicely with some potatoes and crispy courgette frittes, which we couldn’t get enough of. To round off the evening, I went for a light and smooth pannacotta dish, while my friend opted for dessert of the day – a chocolate cake, which looked intensely appealing.
All in all it’s a lovely venue with exceptional food – and the perfect place to while away a cold, miserable winter’s night.