In August 2014 it was announced that this site was being taken over by the Frescobaldi family from Italy, a new restaurant to open in due course. It can only be hoped that it turns out to be better value than C London.
C London is the new name of what was formerly Cipriani restaurant, which opened in 2004. Confusingly, the restaurant is part of the Cipriani Group (who has numerous outlets around the world) but due to a legal dispute with the original owner they cannot use the Cipriani name within the EU. The restaurant is just up from Berkeley Square and is squarely aimed at the wealthy of Mayfair, the dining room expensively fitted out.
The menu itself offers traditional Italian dishes, some directly from the original Harry’s Bar in Venice. The latter was set up by Giuseppe Cipriani in 1931, and is a Venice icon, having attracted customers such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway and Noel Coward. The peach Bellini cocktail invented here is on offer at C London also. The chef here is Giuseppe Marangi, who had previously worked at Cipriani in New York.
The wine list had selections such as Alois Lageder Selection Riff Pinot Grigio 2010 at £48 for a wine that retails at £8, the excellent Jermann Vintage Tunina 2009 at £105 for a wine that you can find in the shops for £34, and Gaja Rossy Bass Langhe 2010 at £150 for a wine that you can buy for £38 in the high street. An idea of the mark-up levels is that the basic Sauvignon Sorsere Forchir 2010 is listed at £44 for a wine that actually costs £4 in Italy. This is clearly not a list for wine drinkers looking for bargains.
The menu is lengthy, with 18 starters alone, and prices that accompany the wine list. Starters are mostly around £20 or so, pasta dishes over £21 and main courses hover around the £35 mark, desserts £9.80. There were two set lunch options, one at £34.80 for three courses, and another at £43.50 with a costlier main course. This compares to £26 for a three course menu at Zafferano, for example.
My scampi and borlotti bean salad (£26) had reasonably tender borlotti beans, and pieces of langoustine that were slightly overcooked, with little noticeable seasoning (11/20). Better was tagliatelle al pesto (£21.30), with a generous portion of pasta that had been nicely cooked, with a pleasant pesto sauce; a simple, but well-made dish (comfortably 13/20).
Service was pleasant and the food decent, but the question mark here has to be the value for money issue. The prices here are around the same level as, for example, Apsleys, and higher than Zafferano, yet the food here is not remotely of that level of quality and sophistication. Still, like Harry’s Bar in Venice, this was never really about the food.