Italian restaurants have had their part to play in British history. It was at Granita in North London that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown devised their plans for New Labour’s coming years in power in the early Nineties.
Now closed, Granita’s modern replacement could well be Quirinale (the name refers to Rome’s Presidential Palace) – a lovely basement restaurant serving modern Italian cuisine. Its location in Great Peter Street is just a stone’s throw away from the hot seat of government; within range of the division bell if any diners linger too long over their lunch!
On the lunchtime when I visited, there were huddles of grey-suited men talking quietly. The tables are well spaced so private conversations can remain so (useful in these days of warring government factions). The only face I recognised was that of Channel 4 newsman Krishnan Guru-Murthy but I was there for food not gossip.
And what food! The menus, from £30 per person for three courses, are classic Italian with a seasonal twist. My starter of warm spelt salad with baby octopus and peas was perfectly pitched and was very generously sized. My main course was an exemplary risotto with fillets of sea bass. My dining companion’s breast of guinea fowl with courgette and black summer truffle was flavourful and succulent. Portions were generous so we had no room for dessert although we did enjoy excellent cappuccinos with chocolates.
A new five-course tasting menu with matching wines is now available on Saturdays: it includes such dishes as timbale of crab with broccoli and taggiasche olives, fontina cheese casoncelli with black summer truffle, fillet of Scottish beef with wild mushrooms and citrus fruit salad with Campari sorbet, for £70 per person.
Quirinale has an atmosphere of quiet calm, whatever the hotbed of political intrigue being discussed at its elegant tables. Despite being situated in a basement, the huge mullioned windows allowed light to flow in and the service was politely unobtrusive. Quirinale has been open for five years but has now extended its opening hours to Saturdays, which means that it’s not just the politicos who have the monopoly on good eating in Westminster.
1 Great Peter Street
Tel: 020 7222 7080