Brothers Gabriel and Marcello Bernardi are of Italian heritage but were born in Melbourne. They opened Bernardi’s in late 2015, which has a ground floor all-day restaurant and a basement bar. The head chef is Sabrina Gidda, who had previously been head chef of London pub The Draft House for two years and then at a series of in-house corporate hospitality venues before moving here. She was apparently in the kitchen this evening.
The dining room has plenty of natural light and the overall effect comes across as smart but casual, with no tablecloths, wood floor and quite tightly packed tables. The hard surfaces means that noise levels are high, so just talking to your dining companion requires speaking quite loudly. The menu has antipasti from £6 to £9.50, pasta from £8 to £10, main courses mostly from £18.50 to £19 and desserts from £7 to £8. Vegetables dishes were extra at £4 per portion.
There was a quite comprehensive, mostly Italian, wine list, organised by region. Sample offerings were Poggio Anima Gabriel Pecorino 2014 at £26 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £9, Pierluigi Zampaglione Don Chiscotte Fiano 2010 at £49 compared to a retail price of £23, and Montesecondo “TIN” 2013 at £81 for a bottle that will set you back £36 in the shops. There were some grander offerings such as Ornellaia 2009 (£385 for a wine with a current market value of £147), and, due to the Coravin system used here, several posher bottles could be purchased by the glass.
Focaccia was made from scratch in the kitchen in two varieties, and although it was rather denser in texture than ideal, it was fine; I always like to see a kitchen to make its own bread (13/20). A rosemary chicken salad was not a great start to the meal. Strips of bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cannellini beans and piattoni beans were pleasant enough, but the chicken itself was dried out and overcooked, the rosemary flavour overly subtle; the salad leaves were dressed but there were not many of them, so the overall effect was overly dry (11/20). Better was a pizzette of gorgonzola mushroom and aged balsamic vinegar. This has a good base and plenty of cheese flavour, the vinegar a pleasing pairing with the cheese (comfortably 13/20).
Cicatelli amatriciana had decent pasta (this one is bought in, though apparently some others here are fresh) and quite intensely flavoured tomato sauce, though what appeared to be pieces of speck had a rather odd texture (12/20). Bream was accurately cooked, served with tomato, nice olives and rather flavourless asparagus, which seemed very late indeed in the season (13/20). On the side, wild rocket and Parmesan was pleasant, as were some potato fritters.
For dessert, poached peach on a bed of summer berries sounded better than it was. Notionally it was topped with lemon sorbet, though this was clearly not the case (the decidedly flavourless ice cream on top turned out to be milk ice cream). The raspberries and strawberries were fine, but the peach, apparently imported from Italy, ended up appearing on the plate as a rather stringy creature with its flavour dissipated in the preparation, which was a pity (11/20). Better was apricot semifreddo and crumbled amaretti, The apricots had plenty of flavour, and the texture of the semifreddo (a semi-frozen dessert of eggs, sugar and cream) was fine (13/20).
Coffee was Musetti, a brand much beloved by many restaurateurs in London for its low price, but a brand that I am unimpressed by; this was at least the somewhat superior 202 blend. Service was good if decidedly swift at the start of the meal, and the bill came to £65 head with some good wine by the glass, which seems a pretty typical cost per head for three courses with decent wine. Bernardi’s was very busy on this Tuesday evening and so seems to be prospering. For me the menu was less appealing than at some other Italian places in London, but that is just an issue of personal preference. The inconsistency in the cooking was rather more troubling, and although the best dishes we tried were fine, not everything was quite right. Bernardi’s was pleasant enough and you could certainly do worse if in the area, but this not somewhere to head out of your way for a destination dining experience, and the value for money factor is problematic.