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Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
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Review

Cecconi’s

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5a Burlington Gardens W1
Tel: 020 7434 1500
Cost: about £50

If a puma were magically transmogrified into a restaurant, it would probably look a lot like the newly redesigned Cecconi’s. Dark, sleek, with an insinuation of danger, this old standby has become a paean to the modern take on retro styling. Strings of metal beads replace curtains, crackled glass panels that resemble fawn-coloured mosaic tiles replace walls, the bar is a study in black and the lighting is oh-so sexy.

In its first lifetime, Cecconi’s was the place that moved Italian restaurants upscale from the West End trattorias, but you could still have newly-fashionable dishes like cannelloni or fegato alla Veneziana. You still can. But this heritage-retro cooking is now managed by Giorgio Locatelli, the ex-head chef of Zafferano, where he had a Michelin star and for which he won a Carlton award as best chef in London. Locatelli is acting as consultant for the new owner, Hanni Farsi, who also owns Ché. The intent of the cooking is different from the cooking Locatelli did at Zafferano, so don’t expect his trademark style of seemingly casual but highly evolved cooking because this is not what Cecconi’s is about.

Take, for example, the cuttlefish salad with squid ink sauce which uses fairly thick little slabs of the molluscs, scored and very lightly grilled, resting on a bed of bitter greens, with drizzles of squid ink sauce and flavoured oil. Gnocchetti with Norcia black truffle is another classic dish – little firm but yielding pillows of potato bathed in olive oil and butter with a generous amount of Parmesan and the pheromone-laced tuber. When something simple works, why make it unnecessarily complicated? Ditto for the classic, previously-mentioned fegato alla Veneziana, thinly sliced and pan-grilled to centre-pink perfection with just the right amount of onion and balsamic vinegar. Cannon of lamb comes crusted with pesto and sweet red pepper and is done perfectly if simply. Desserts are a mix of standards old and new – tiramisù, semifreddo, but also warm chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream and rhubarb mille-feuille. Service and wines are exemplary, very smooth. Nothing is so complicated that you would lose sight of the most important fact - you must remain looking cool and sleek at all times. Wear something dark and slightly sinister.