This restaurant is in a boutique hotel called The Hari in Belgravia, which opened in its current form in the summer of 2016. The head chef is Claude Covino, who was previously senior sous chef at the Italian Novikov restaurant in Mayfair. This site once witnessed the distinctly brief tenure of HIX Belgravia, followed by Pont Street under the direction of Sophie Michell until its latest incarnation. Il Pampero, which is named after the owner’s favourite racehorse, opened in March 2017. The menu follows the traditional structure of starters and salads (£11 to £18), pasta dishes (£13 to £25) and mains (£18.50 to £33.50), with side dishes from £5.50 up to a lofty £9.50 for a rocket and Parmesan salad.
The wine list started at £25 and went all the way up to £1,200 in price, though it was nice to see that there were several bottles under £40. The list was mostly Italian but there were some bottles from elsewhere. Sample labels were Azienda Agricola Bandut di Giorgio Colutta Pinot Grigio of mysterious vintage at £30 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £16, Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2012 at £60 compared to its retail price of £38, and Salette Amarone della Valpolicella 2012 at a very reasonable £85 for a wine that will set you back £80 in a shop. At the posh end of the list, Antinori Tignanello 2008 was an indefensible £450 for a bottle that only costs £95 in a shop. That works out at 5.3 times its retail price, with a cash margin of £411 once you include service. Penfolds Grange 2001 was somewhat less absurdly priced at £670 compared to its retail price of £398, though even this yields a hefty cash margin of £356 once you add service. This is certainly not a list that encourages diners to trade up and drink well, and is all the stranger given that some of the mid-range wines are quite reasonably priced. To be fair, when I spoke to the restaurant manager it seems that this was a list that he inherited, and he is aware that there are a number of issues to be fixed.
Bread is made from scratch in the hotel kitchen. I am all for restaurants making their own bread, but this was nothing special. On the positive side it was palpably fresh, but the texture and flavour was so-so. There was focaccia, white bread and spinach bread which was unusual, as well as grissini coloured and flavoured with squid ink. I am not sure that either of the latter were good ideas, but the plain bread and the focaccia were fine (13/20). Pea soup with dry ricotta cheese was quite interesting. It is tempting to dismiss soup, yet there is a vast difference in standard between soups at different restaurants. This version featured peas that had plenty of flavour, which is rare in the UK, and was also served piping hot, the cheese adding an extra flavour note (easily 14/20).
Tagliatelle Bolognese featured very good pasta that was made fresh, and a bolognese sauce that had plenty of flavour. Seasoning was good, and overall this was a very good rendition of this classic dish (14/20). Seafood risotto featured scallops, mussels, squid and prawns in a light tomato sauce. The seafood was carefully cooked, the prawns of good quality, and the texture of the risotto was fine (14/20). On the side, a green salad had reasonable leaves and a well-balanced dressing, as well it might at £5.50.
For dessert, passion fruit panna cotta was served in a glass, with a separate bowl of assorted fruit poured over it. The passion fruit flavour came through well, and the panna cotta was suitably wobbly, but the topping felt like an afterthought (13/20). Better was a modern take on tiramisu. This arrived as a cylinder, which when it was cut into released a liquid with strong coffee flavour. It was essentially a semi-freddo (semi frozen) dessert rather than a classic tiramisu, but tasted good to me. This was an inventive and successful take on the famous classic (15/20). Coffee was Illy.
Service was good, the Neapolitan restaurant manager formerly having worked both in Lyon and at a Japanese restaurant in London. The bill came to £87 each in all. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic cost per head might be £80. This is not cheap, but you are in Belgravia, and the standard of the food was quite high. I think there are improvements to be made here, but this is already a good restaurant.