Ristorante Frescobaldi London opened in November 2014. It is owned by the Frescobaldi family, a Florentine wine dynasty who have been making Tuscan wines since 1308, and now produce 7 million bottles a year from 1,100 hectares of vineyards. The building is tucked away in a quiet spot off Regent Street. Some money has clearly been invested in the decoration, with tiled floor, a large central wine display and elaborate tiled murals on the walls. The very high ceiling and well-spaced tables are a pleasant change from the sardine-like conditions in many recent London restaurant openings.
The wine list had 122 bottles ranging from £25 to £1,250, with a median price of £90 and an average mark-up of 3.2 times retail, which is far from a bargain but these days seems almost normal in central London. Bottles included Whispering Angel 2013 Château d’Esclans at £58 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £17, Reserve de Leoville Barton 2010 at £98 for a bottle that retails at £30, and Mormoreto 2007 at £120 for a wine that will set you back £56 in a shop.
Head chef Roberto Reatini was previously at Zafferano, and was senior sous chef at Shoreditch House. The menu, on a vast fold-out card, follows the usual Italian format, with the addition of the “sharing” dishes so beloved of restaurateurs with an eye on profit margins. Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and was good, with soft focaccia and thin crisp bread – there were no less than 15 staff in the large kitchen for a maximum of 62 diners. There is an additional lounge downstairs and terrace seating for clement weather, though this quiet side street, currently a cul-de-sac with extensive building work, is not an obvious location for pavement café people watching.
Tartare of yellowfin tuna with red onions, olives and chilli had decent tuna but lacked sufficient seasoning, and although the olives came through the chilli was essentially invisible (barely 13/20). Much better was a starter of crab cakes on a bed of ripe avocado, with a dressing of lemon and pink peppercorn. Unlike many of the breed, this was packed with fresh crab, the coating crisp and the dressing providing good balance (15/20).
Rabbit ragu came with tubular paccheri pasta, flavoured with olive and thyme. The pasta had very good texture and the ragu had plenty of flavour and was accurately seasoned (14/20). This was better than a pumpkin risotto; it was made from scratch and had carefully cooked rice but the pumpkin was a little too firm (13/20).
Sorbets were well made, having plenty of fruit flavour, though the passion fruit one needed a little more sugar to balance it, being overly tart. However both the lemon and mango sorbets were very good indeed (13/20 average). Coffee, of Jamaican origin from a supplier in Verona, was rich and fully flavoured. Being charged £5 for a top-up of double espresso felt distinctly mean, however.
Service was excellent, the staff attentive and friendly. The bill, with a good but not excessive bottle of wine to share and pre-dinner drinks, came to £126 a head. If you shared a more modest bottle then a typical bill per person might come to around £90. This feels quite ambitious, even given the smart Mayfair location. It will be interesting to see how this restaurant fares. The food was good, the wine list interesting though expensive, the service slick. However this is a location with no passing trade whatever, and seems to have had a surprisingly low-profile launch. It was far from packed on this mid-week evening.