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Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides

The Hart Brothers
The Hart Brothers, who have made Quo Vadis and Fino into such success stories

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10% Discount with Privilege Card from 11am to 7.30pm
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Vapiano

In an age when Italian-style fast food means having a quick plate of pizza or pasta, Vapiano takes things one step further and makes things fun and well, practically interactive....


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Review

Il Convivio

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143 Ebury St., London SW1 Tel: 020 7730 4099
Cost: £24.50 two courses, £29.50 three courses



Italians are great sticklers for doing things properly and there almost seems to be a shared consciousness when it comes to knowing what should and should not be done. A well-run Italian restaurant provides the comforting assurance that nothing untoward will ever happen to you in any way while you are dining there because it would be just so inconceivably impolite. As long as everyone plays along by the rules, you can be assured of enjoying yourself in complete safety. Convivio, in case you were wondering, is Italian for feast (in the Greek scheme of things this was often followed by a symposium, a drinking session, but we’ll have none of that here), deriving from the words “living together”.


Il Convivio is a very well-run Italian restaurant which does things in a very measured way. Just racy enough to be interesting, just friendly enough to avoid stuffiness, just formal enough to stave off any hint of vulgarity. In such chaotic times this is not damning with feint praise. And at any time such well-thought, sensual yet progressive Italian cooking would be welcome. So the seared, diver scallops were equilaterally poised between fennel puree and tomato/vanilla vinaigrette. Skewered quail was marinated in concentrated grape must before sautéing and pairing with a deep-fried courgette blossom. The steamed fillet of red mullet and asparagus with a cappuccino sauce of sea urchin and Franciacorta wine is an epiphany, with the pronounced oyster-like character of the sea urchins appearing like the birth of Venus. (I’ll have my mixed seafood metaphor to go, please.)

After such an intense combination, sautéed gilt-head bream with Mediterranean vegetables in a light olive oil sauce came as something of a relief to the senses. But the grilled John Dory with lobster, broad beans and tomato gave the red mullet a bit of competition, the firm, almost nutty fillets complementing the lobstery sweetness, but by the acid of the tomatoes which are balanced with the broad beans’ starchiness. On a subsequent visit , I would like to try some of chef Lukas Pfaff’s pastas (pappardelle with sweetbreads), along with some of the kitchen’s desserts because we tried a couple of cheesy ends to the meal: blue goats cheese with mostarda de frutta, good; and deep-fried peccorino parcels with Sardinian honey, saffron ice cream and almond crunch (see previous paragraph re: epiphany).

Sommelier Rosalba Poletti (who has assembled a magnificent Italian wine list) inspired confidence not so much by beating one into submission with erudition, but by intuition and understanding, a kinder, gentler experience. So convivial.