The Antinori wine family is one of the grandest in Italy, making wine in Tuscany since 1385. It is still a family business, now headed by Allegra Antinori. It is the ninth oldest family business in the world, though it is not even the oldest wine-making one; that accolade goes to Barone Ricasoli in Sienna, est 1141.
Their wines include the 47-hectare Tignanello vineyard and the tiny but prestigious 10-hectare Solaia vineyard next to it, with this wine released since 1978. Cantinetta Antinori opened in Florence in 1957, offering traditional Tuscan cuisine, with further branches following in Zurich, Moscow, Vienna and Monaco. The London version opened in Chelsea in June 2023. The restaurant is split over two floors, seating up to 80 diners at any one time, plus a small private dining room. The head chef is Marco Squillace, head chef at Soho House in White City for a decade prior to this, and before that having been at Trattoria Semplice for four years. The menu was failry classical Italian a la carte.
The restaurant serves wines exclusively from the vineyards that it controls. Although mostly red wines, since 2021 the Antinori empire includes the high quality white wine producer Jermann in Friuli. The wine list had 93 labels and ranged in price from £40 to £950, with a median price of £130 and an average markup to retail price of 3.5 times, quite high even for Belgravia. Sample references were Tormaresca Nèprica Negroamaro IGT Torcicoda Primitivo del Salento 2021 at £40 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £9, Prunotto Occhetti Langhe DOC Nebbiolo 2021 at £65 compared to its retail price of £22, and Castello della Sala Conte della Vipera Umbria IGT 2021 at £82 for a wine that will set you back £24 in the high street. For those with the means there was Tignanello 2005 at £480 compared to its retail price of £288, and Antinori Solaia 2010 at £850 for a wine whose current market value is £368.
Bread was bought in from an Italian baker in Wimbledon and was fine, with pleasant focaccia. Papardelle with lamb ragu (£28) had carefully cooked pasta and a ragu that had reasonable intensity of flavour (14/20). Also very good was freshly made tortelli (£24) filled with ricotta cheese, butter and a garnish of fried sage. Again, the pasta was hard to fault, though perhaps a touch more salt would have been useful (14/20).
For the main course, tuna (£39) was seared and rare, served with fresh peas and asparagus and a little carrot. The tuna had nice texture and the asparagus, though seemingly a touch out of season, was fine; the peas were just a bit cold but were cooked perfectly well (14/20). I enjoyed my French roast chicken (£32) resting on a bed of sauteed spinach and Swiss chard, with a little veal jus. The meat had good flavour and was well seasoned, while the vegetables were spot on. I would have liked more veal jus than the smears that appeared, since this added flavour and more of it would have improved the dish, but this was certainly a nice main course (14/20). On the side there were some nicely cooked slices of potato flavoured with rosemary.
For dessert, almond chocolate cake (£12) with pistachio ice cream had good chocolate that was not dominated by the almonds, the ice cream, having smooth texture (14/20). Tiramisu (£12) was assembled at the table, the sponge fingers covered with mascarpone cream and topped with pistachios. There was plenty of coffee flavour though the sponge fingers slightly disintegrated once the mascarpone was poured over them (14/20).
Coffee was from Kombi, a Neapolitan coffee maker, and a distinctly mediocre average one based on this espresso, which tasted as if it was roasted very dark and has a somewhat burnt characteristic. Given all the specialty coffee roasters in London and that this coffee was charged at £4, I fail to see why so many restaurants insist on serving poor quality industrial coffee. The cost to a restaurant of either a portion of beans or a capsule for a coffee is maybe 35-40p assuming an 18g shot, whereas the cost of a good specialty coffee to a restaurant is around 50p. The restaurant would still make £3.50 in profit by serving a good coffee instead of £3.65, hardly a huge difference, and yet the experience to the customer would be vastly better.
The service was charming throughout the evening and the bill came to £179 a head with a decent but unexceptional bottle of wine and pre-dinner drinks. Overall, I enjoyed Cantinetta Antinori, with its appealing menu, warm welcome and capably cooked food. The only issue is the price, which is somewhat high even by the demanding levels of Belgravia, particularly with regards to the wine markups. If this was a cheaper proposition then I would happily become a regular, especially given the generally low standard of Italian restaurants in London at present.