Al Mare is an Italian seafood restaurant within the Carlton Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge. Executive chef since opening in July 2020 is Marco Calenzo, who was head chef and then executive chef of Zuma, and was previously executive sous chef at the late lamented Apsleys. The dining room is on the ground floor of the hotel, and looks out over the greenery of Lowndes Square. There is a bar as you enter and the kitchen is visible from the dining room. As well as a full a la carte menu selection, there was also a three-course set lunch at £45. Although there is some emphasis on seafood there are plenty of choices for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The seafood comes from a mix of suppliers, including Atari Ya and Wright Brothers.
The wine list had 250 labels and ranged in price from £40 to £10,000, with a median price of £125 and an average markup to retail price of 2.94 times, which is not bad by London standards. Sample references were Gavi Rovereto by Ernesto Picollo 2020 at £58 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £18, Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2019 at £85 compared to its retail price of £23, and Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige Ca’ del Bosco NV at £96 for a wine that will set you back £37 in the high street. For those with the means there was Antinori Tignanello 2015 at £260 compared to its retail price of £172, and Masseto Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia 2000 at £1,390 for a wine whose current market value is £922. I was impressed with the Villa Bucci Verdicchio deo Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2016, priced at £80 compared to its retail price of £35; the wine had excellent acidity and good structure.
My first course of saffron arancini with spicy tuna tartare featured good quality sustainably fished Mediterranean tuna, with a gentle pepper bite, while the arancini were crisp without the saffron dominating (14/20). Bread was made in house and included thin carte di musica as well as very good malt and maple syrup bread. Rigatoni was made from scratch in the kitchen and was carefully cooked, garnished with Perigord black truffle. The pasta had excellent texture and the gentle earthy aroma of the truffle added a luxurious air to the dish (14/20). Saffron risotto used two-year aged Acquarello rice and had a dusting of liquorice powder, perhaps a nod to the famous version at Le Calandre, which also uses this. The risotto had gorgeous texture, the rice having absorbed the stock well, and the saffron flavour was precisely controlled; this was top quality risotto (16/20).
For dessert, lemon tart was not a classical tart but featured vanilla shortcrust, almond sponge and lemon foam along with lemon curd. Although I would probably have preferred a traditional lemon tart, this version was certainly very capable, with nicely judged acidity to balance the richness (14/20). Coffee was Illy, which is arguably the best of the industrial Italian coffees, but it would be nice to see a specialty coffee being used. Service was excellent, and the bill came to £126 per person. I enjoyed Al Mare, which demonstrated an appealing menu, very capable cooking and good ingredients.