I haven’t reviewed a restaurant for a little while, generally because I am boring and tend to stick to the same places. But I tried Sparrow Italia in Mayfair recently and it is worthy.
It shouldn’t be, given that it is so far removed from the cost-of-living zeitgeist. It has just opened on Avery Row as an offshoot of a bigger brother in LA and is extremely flash and extremely expensive. A beautiful Georgian townhouse with an elegant bar, two restaurants and promises of a cigar room and terrace in the near future. Open fires, paneling, elegant lighting, olive trees, napery that could understudy plasterwork and exquisite but simple Italian food. It’s rather like being at the Arts Club, but without all the hookers and blow.
These may follow on in due course given the optimistic pricing. There is a steak on the menu (presumably from a very good address) at £215. I kid you not. A 2009 Soldera at £1,800 a bottle. And with a 15% service charge another £270 to pour it. These will clearly appeal only to the worst sort of banker. None of whom was in evidence when I went, to be fair.
I headed to the top left of the menu and started with superb meatballs at £20, then a spaghetti puttanesca at £25. Really stunning, if a little polite and only on nodding acquaintanceship with the Neapolitan prostitutes from which it derives its name. All washed down with a wonderful 2016 Sicilian red at £90.
But the experience was entirely made by the staff. I recognised most of them. Theo, who has been tasked with launching such a costly venture, used to run the Ivy. He has recruited, no doubt entirely coincidentally, the cream of the front of house staff from Scott’s, The Ivy, The Caprice. Like Radio Caroline, only the greats. They treated all the guests as if they were long-lost cousins. It felt just like a members’ club without being one.
I like what they’re trying to do, and I like the fact that it’s something slightly different from the usual offerings by Caprice Holdings or Soho House. This will never be a cheap eat. But with a bit of caution it can be an affordable one (certainly for City lawyers), and a great place for a big date or a smart client. Despite having only opened a few days ago it was full when I went on a wet Thursday lunch last week.