Zafferano is a fixture of Belgravia, having opened back in 1995. When it had Giorgio Locatelli in charge of the kitchen it gained a Michelin star, which it retained for many years under the kitchen leadership of Andy Needham (now of l’Amorosa), though the star slipped away in 2013. The head chef is now Daniele Camera, previously head chef of Alloro. A three-course lunch was available at £52, or £78 using more luxurious ingredients. A five course evening tasting menu weighs in at £128.
The wine list is extensive, mostly Italian with a short selection of prestigious French bottles and a few labels from elsewhere in the world. For example there was Sant Michel Appiano Montiggl Riesling 2014 at £42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £17, Barida Alta Bianco 2013 at £76 compared to its retail price of £27, and the excellent Jermann Vintage Tunina 2014 at £125 for a wine that will set you back around £40 in a shop. Some of the prestige wines were at crazy mark-ups: Rioja 904 1982 can be found retail at £185, yet was on the list here at an absurd £950. The wine prices have risen steeply recently. In 2014 the Vintage Tunina was £94 a bottle (after having been £85 just a couple of years earlier), and just two years later has risen to £125, a 33% increase when in the same period inflation alone would have taken it to £96. This seems to be wholly unjustifiable.
A summer vegetable salad was pleasant but unremarkable, the assorted vegetables nicely presented but having unremarkable flavour. The salad dressing used was good due to the nice quality oil and vinegar used but I would have preferred more dressing (13/20).
Miniature ravioli with sage was excellent, the pasta made from scratch in the kitchen and having lovely texture (15/20). Ragu made from Italian pork sausages with strozzapreti pasta came with broccoli and was flavoured with a little chilli. This pasta means “priest strangler”, after a legend that a priest who liked them guzzled them so fast that he choked. I ate mine more carefully and survived, the texture of the pasta again good. For me the flavour could have been bolder, the chilli in particular rather tentative (14/20).
For desssert, each millefuille was attractively presented and had good, ripe fruit in between the layers of puff pastry. This was a very enjoyable summer dessert (15/20). Coffee was fine.
The bill came to £35 a head at lunch, with just water to drink, but that was sharing a starter and dessert, and ordering just a pasta dish each. If you went for dinner and shared a decent bottle of wine then a more realistic all in cost for three courses and coffee would be £90 or more. Service was excellent today, but Zafferano is never a bargain, and you are paying quite a premium for the Belgravia location, slick service and capable cooking. I have been coming regularly to Zafferano since it opened, and at one point I was eating here on a roughly monthly basis. However in recent times the prices have risen higher and higher and yet the standard of cooking has remained stable or slightly worse. Much as I have fond memories of the restaurant I find it hard to justify the now steepling prices being charged.