Il Baretto

45 Blandford Street, London, England, W1U 7HF, United Kingdom

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Il Baretto is the reincarnation of the sadly missed Giusto. The food is still Italian, but the décor is now smarter and the menu (and prices) more ambitious; ownership is now the same as the wildly successful Roka and Zuma. Most of the exposed brickwork has been covered with mirrors and black and white prints, but the wooden floor in a low-ceilinged basement space means the noise levels are high. Wine mark-ups are stiff. Vintage Tunina 2006 was listed at £93 for a wine you can buy for £26 in the shops, Pinot Grigio 2008 was £37 for a wine that costs around a tenner, while at the upper end of the list Antinori Solaia 2001 was £460 compared to a retail price of about £158.

The lengthy menu has starters at around £10 - £13, mains at £15 - £26.50, while there are also pizzas at about £13. We had some garlic bread, a generous portion (as it might be at £4.50) but it was unimpressive; at least it clearly had garlic flavour, but it was barely warm, and the texture was disappointing; Franco Manca need not worry (barely 11/20). Fortunately this was the only real slip of the meal. A starter (£15.50) of spider crab, rocket and tomatoes had fresh crab (with almost, but not quite, all the shell removed), tomatoes with good flavour, nice and properly dressed rocket (14/20). Tagliatelle with tomato and basil (£10) had pasta with good texture, again tomatoes with quite good flavour and capable seasoning (14/20).

For main course, sea bass baked in salt (£28) was at least wild bass, and it was nicely cooked, offered with just a little salad; the skill of filleting a fish seemed to have eluded our waiter (14/20 though for a good quality fish, cooked well). King prawns with garlic and chilli were less good, the prawns cooked properly but having a slightly mushy consistency that was not due to the cooking but to the quality of the prawns (12/20). A side of French beans (£4.50) was cooked reasonably but lacked seasoning, while roast potatoes (£4) were pleasant and had a nice hint of rosemary(13/20 at most for the vegetables on average).

Desserts finished the meal on a positive note. Passion fruit cheese cake had pleasing texture and taste, while tiramisu had strong coffee flavour (easily 14/20). Service was friendly if a little erratic. Starters arrived almost instantly, but the meal was otherwise paced OK. The issue here is simply the price. With a £32 wine between us, the bill for three courses still came to £82, which is a little more than the price you would pay at L’Anima or Zafferano. The dining room was pretty full, so the owners appear to have judged their wealthy and young clientele well, but for those diners not on expenses these prices seem out of proportion to the cooking on offer, which is at best 14/20 level.


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