Ilia reopened at the end of 2010 on the site of what used to be Papillon. The menu now is firmly Italian, the kitchen in the hands of Omar Agostini, who worked most recently with Helene Darroze, but in the past with Alain Ducasse. The room seats 80 at capacity, and the kitchen sources 60% of its ingredients from Italy.
The menu has starters at £7 - £16, pasta £12 to £15 and main courses £19 to £25, with vegetables a chunky £5 extra. The Italian wine list was printed on the back of the food menu and starts at £19, though the prices climbed swiftly. It included wines such as Carso Vitoska Zidarich Bianco 2007 at £44 for a wine that retails at £23, Brunello Costanti at £115 for a wine that shops charge £37 for, with the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2007 at £180 for a wine that will set you back £50 in the shops. We drank Pinot Grigio Livio Felluga 2009 at £42 for a wine that you can pick up for £18 in the shops. There was just one listed dessert wine, plus a very good Saracco Moscato d’Asti. Bread was made from scratch, apparently twice a day, though the rolls that we tried were very hard indeed and did not taste fresh. Carte musica was much better, and when I later saw an appealing plate of focaccia heading for another table I hijacked it, and this was lovely, clearly fresh and with soft texture. Consequently it is hard to score the bread, which ranged from barely 11/20 to a comfortable 15/20.
I began with a special of white asparagus and scrambled egg: the asparagus was seasonal and from Piedmont, and was excellent, just made with a little scrambled egg and herbs (comfortably 14/20, pushing 15/20). My wife had warm artichokes with provola cheese (a cow milk cheese from southern Italy), a pleasant dish (13/20). My main course was papardelle with wild boar ragu, and this was lovely, the pasta tender and the ragu rich and comforting, with tomatoes, a hint of the taste of the boar and plenty of seasoning (15/20). My wife had sea bass, which although farmed tasted fine, and was cooked well, served with a simple mixed salad. The fish was cooked whole and filleted by a waiter, which in this case was a pity as his filleting skills approximated that of a ten year old asked to fillet a fish using only a twig. A heap of jumbled fish pieces and the odd bone arrived. My wife, who trained as an eye surgeon, can fillet a fish to a Tom & Jerry cartoon perfect standard with her eyes closed, and I really wish they had just let her do it. Nonetheless, the fish itself tasted fine, the salad was nicely dressed and the tomatoes, from Italy, had good flavour (14/20 despite the filleting skills).
A selection of desserts included a terrific praline semifreddo with lovely raspberries, a bowl of excellent new season strawberries from France that actually tasted of strawberries, which ones in the UK have long since ceased to, and a pleasant trifle, though an almond and chocolate cake was a little dry (14/20 average, but much higher for the semifreddo). Service, led by a manager who used to be at Al Baretto, was friendly. The bill came to £70 a head, which was reasonable enough given the quality of what was delivered. The ingredient quality here is unusually high, and the kitchen is clearly able to deliver skilfully cooked dishes.