Located in South Kensington, the Royal Albert Hall is one of London’s and Britain’s most iconic buildings. If David Cameron wanted to try and get some kind of grasp in his forever fumbling quest to define British values, he could just point at the building and splutter, ‘That, that there, that’s Britishness. The whole thing, Elgar, Last night of the Proms, Henry Wood, a man in a Union Jack top hat, waistcoat and trousers, picnics, queuing. All of that, just, just, just stop shouting out me!’
Numinous parochial thunderings aside, rhetorical belchings that are told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, a restaurant has opened up within the magnificent building. It is a very breezy place, light and not bearing the weight of its history too heavily. The pictures surrounding the restaurant are not those of classical musicians but of more contemporary artists such as Adele and Sir Paul McCartney. On Friday nights, there is jazz and there is a genial, relaxed feel to the place.
As for the food, the focus is on Italian food, as indicated by the nationality of the composer who gives his name to the restaurant. They could have gone French with Bizet, German with Beethoven or even Polish with Chopin but Verdi seems much more fitting in terms of the space and the feel.
My companion and I started off with a respective choice of the Insalata Caprese – buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and the Gamberi con Pancetta – grilled pancetta wrapped prawns with rosemary and grilled lemon. Whilst my companion quickly delved through the mozzarella, describing it as ‘accomplished’, it quickly became apparent that she was intent on snaffling every last prawn she could get away with. It become a polite tussle with passive-aggressive jabbing of forks, which pranged together and only very slowly were disentangled. This was due to the depth of flavour given to the prawns by the addition of the pancetta and rosemary. It finished 4-2 in my companion’s favour.
On to the mains and I went for the Cotoletta alla Verdi, veal escalope, smoked pancetta, sage and grilled courgettes. My companion went for the Orata al Forno, which was sea bream with harlequin gnocchi, pesto, spinach and a caper dressing. Whilst my companion enthused about the Orata, complimenting the delicacy of the accompaniments to the fish whereas I was a little iffy about the veal. The cut of the meat was rather stringy and the make up of the course seemed to be a little confused in its organisation. None of the ingredients seemed to work in conjunction with one another and it was a bit of a disappointment.
Matters picked up with dessert. I plumped for the torta al limoni di amalfi, lemon and polenta cake, whilst my companion chose the tiramisu. Both were very nimble and rounded off what was a very enjoyable meal. The atmosphere in the restaurant is not oppressive and given the value of the meal, it is a very cultured and elegant way to spend an evening in South Kensington.
Verdi at the Royal Albert Hall
Tel: 020 7589 8212