If you’re already familiar with Sartoria, you’ll know it as the elegant, regally-appointed Savile Row flagship of Calabrian maestro Francesco Mazzei. The sort of place you’d reserve for occasions, to treat a loved one to veal Milanese or salt crust sea bass for two cradled in a mahogany and leather banquette, that has a ‘truffle menu’ and waiting staff dressed for a Fellini film. Not, you might think, the best choice for a casual Saturday brunch with a capricious 5-year-old in tow.
But brunches they do and when it came to electing a venue for Mrs L’s birthday with the instruction ‘wouldn’t it be nice to do it as a family’, I needed an option for somewhere sophisticated but, equally, that I might teach my daughter a thing or two about fine dining.
There lay the first supposition broken; they do breakfast. And rather well, it would seem, with a preliminary sweep of the website already tempting me with various egg-based confections; from their fried duck egg, asparagus and morels to the saffron risotto cake and soft-boiled egg, and Mazzei’s signature eggs purgatorio with spiced sausage.
My second assumption was similarly addressed; rather than, simply, tolerating children, my tentative enquiry (usually met with a ‘how old?’ when booking restaurants) was greeted with a ‘si, naturalmente!’. How could I assume otherwise, being an Italian restaurant?
Sweeping through the expansive foyer it feels more like a hotel lobby than a restaurant, the recent refurb at the hands of acclaimed designer David d’Almada screaming sophistication at us – and a fear that even in chinos and an open shirt collar, I might be underdressed. It mattered not; something we know Italians do well is an ability to make any atmosphere affable and can pass off the most sartorially deficient diners with aplomb. Being ushered to our table I spotted a man in trainers, for crying out loud. Crikey, even I would draw the line somewhere. He must have been famous.
More’s the point, my second concern was bringing said wilful 5-year-old duchess with us. As any parent will tell you, it’s less about the fussy eating, the spillages, the restlessness, the petulance, the paraphernalia (need I go on?), but the disturbance to other diners. But brunch with daughter didn’t phase the team. Indeed, our little nest of vipers was treated as the special guest, being presented with her own menu ‘di bambini’ and a prompt delivery of spaghetti with sauce on the side and Parmesan ‘on the side’ – yes, 5-year-olds have more dining proclivities than Meg Ryan – keeping fidgeting at bay while we were able to enjoy the serenity of the venue.
So, to breakfast. Though not yet. One can’t come to somewhere like Sartoria and settle for eggs. And, like most Italian meals, there are 17 courses. Breads and olives aside, we opened with a few cichetti to share, include the ‘doughnut’, literally a crisp-fried cloud with truffle mayonnaise and dusted with fried gran paddano granules; it was at once crunchy, earthy, mustardy. Unusual, sure, but that’s why we dine out. Some familiar comforts came from stunning meatballs with just enough warmth at the end, in a sumptuous and rich marinara sauce. And no Italian meal is worth its salt without burrata; here, melting when it touched the tongue and given a salty bite with a hint of anchovy.
We could have left it there and departed happy, but we had come for brunch and in a nod to the Full English, Sartoria gives us (drum roll), The Italian Job. And it is The Full Italian, if you will. All the recognisable components are there, given a spin, with the bar raised. Fried eggs, sure, but sautéd potatoes become polenta cake, the beans are home-made, the sausage is spicy and the tomatoes pomodorino. There’s even a grilled avocado. And if you didn’t think you could have a Nebbiolo before midday, you most certainly can. Not only does it compliment the cichetti but it carried spectacularly throughout the meal.
By now our bambina was showing signs of sluggishness, so to accompany a soothing macchiato we needed something suitable to conclude. Gelato, naturally, but here it comes with a dash of flair. The Tartufo di Pitto looked so intriguing we upped our request to three spoons. A generous confection arrived wrapped in a brown paper bag which, when unwrapped and dusted with cocoa, we tucked into hazelnut and pistachio ice cream, layered with chocolate and more hazelnuts inside. It was demolished in minutes. This was no longer breakfast, by the time we were done, it had become an event.
Brunches often feel sluggish, lazy affairs, usually the ointment to a night out. But here is brunch with an operatic flourish, to leave you bouncing on your heels as you step back into Savile Row, sartorially-served.
If I didn’t know it before, I think I could get very used to brunch all’Italiana.
Sartoria, 20 Savile Row, London W1S 3PR. For more information, including menus, details of events, and to make a booking, visit www.sartoria-restaurant.co.uk.