All in all, last Monday was a pretty great day. My thesis was finally finished, printed and bound, the sun was shining and Char and I were off to review Babbo Restaurant. In my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate than a really great meal with one or all of your nearest and dearest. Babbo certainly provided that. Tucked unassumingly away along Albemarle Street in Mayfair, this restaurant is a far cry from the kind of places I usually frequent. Inside it is intimate and old fashioned with antique lighting, a mere handful of white cloth clad tables and walls strewn with black and white family photographs. I’m always wary of London restaurants that promise an “authentic Italian experience” but in Babbo’s case any apprehensions I had were unfounded.
We arrived to be welcomed like long lost nieces and shown to our table by staff who exuded such genuine warmth I would have hugged them goodbye had I not feared that doing so would have been very unprofessional, not to mention kind of weird. Once seated we embarked on a guided tour of the extensive wine list, eventually settling on the Sancerre Fernand Girard which was refreshing and dangerously moreish. Fine wine locked down, it was time to turn our attentions to the food. Having perused the menu online earlier that afternoon (obviously) I was seriously excited about indulging in two courses of tuna and was rather gutted to learn that there was no Tagliata Di Tonno Con Fregola E Caponata – that’s sliced seared Tuna with Fregola and Sicilian Aubergines FYI – that evening. This was, I was told, due to the fact that when the fish had arrived that morning, it had been rejected by the chef on the grounds of not being quite fresh enough, which rather nicely summarises the ethos of Babbo. Here, nothing is more important than flawless quality and you certainly have to respect that. They were also incredibly accommodating when I went completely off menu which isn’t something that a lot of the more traditional restaurants around have much time for.
Tuna Tartare topped with Caviar
Beef Carpaccio with Parmesan Cheese, Capers from Pantelleria Island and Mustard Sauce
Luckily I still managed to get my fish of choice fix by way of Tuna Tartare topped with Caviar which I ordered for my starter. Tartare is one of those things that, when done well, is almost indescribably delicious. When done badly it’s nothing short of inedible. This tartare fell firmly in the former camp. Rich and succulent without being remotely greasy, it positively exuded Italian deliciousness and, thanks to the caviar topping felt wonderfully indulgent. Char went for the Beef Carpaccio with Parmesan Cheese, Capers from Pantelleria Island and Mustard Sauce. I helped myself to a fair bit of it and can confirm it was executed just as perfectly. These were, hands down, two of the best tartares I’ve ever tasted and despite being decent sized portions and flavoursome fair, both starters were light enough to leave plenty of room for course numero due.
Grilled Salmon with Fregola and Scicilian Aubergine
Grilled Prawns served on Lemon Crust Butter with Black Cabbage, Almond Purée and homemade Cured Duck Breast
This was where I’d decided to go rather off menu, requesting Grilled Salmon with Fregola and Scicilian Aubergine, the accompaniment originally intended for the seared tuna. While I’d definitely visit Babbo again on the grounds of tasting that particular tuna, the dish seemed to work just as well with Salmon which came cooked to perfection and as beautifully presented as anyone could wish for. I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried Fregola – a Sardinian pasta made from oven toasted Semolina dough and vaguely similar to cous cous – and will definitely be ordering it again in future. The salmon was cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection and with roasted aubergine in the mix too the dish was a magnificent medley of tantalising but not overpowering flavours. Char had chosen the Grilled Prawns served on Lemon Crust Butter with Black Cabbage, Almond Purée and homemade Cured Duck Breast. While she wasn’t overly keen on sharing those bad boys they looked great, she assured me they tasted it too and they’re subsequently ranking highly on my must try another time list.
Black Russian & Cosmopolitan
By this point we were starting to feel a bit stuffed so decided on cocktails in lieu of pudding. Black Russian for Char, Cosmpolitan for me, it was the perfect finale to an utterly perfect meal. In case you haven’t realised by now, I would definitely recommend Babbo Mayfair, particularly if you’re really serious about your food and willing to spend a fair bit. It’s certainly not a cool, buzzy, see-and-be-seen kind of place in the way that somewhere like Berner’s Tavern is. But for incredible Italian cuisine and flawless service I can’t think of anywhere better this side of Sicily.
Babbo Mayfair is located at 39 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4JQ. Visit the website here.
Love Ella. X