Belonging to the international D&D restaurant group, and having recently reopened following an extensive makeover, the appropriately entitled Sartoria, meaning ‘tailor’ in Italian, is located on the corner of Savile Row, arguably London’s most stylish street – so it’s not surprising that you’re likely to find almost as many ‘suits’ dining here as you would see at the cutter’s room of Huntsman.
In fact my greatest fear was that the newly wet-shaven Sartoria would be more style over substance, yet when Calabria born and bred Francesco Mazzei (formerly of award-winning L’Anima) was appointed chef patron, I joined the first and old-timers in tripping around the block with a walking cane at my side, curious and hopeful of discovering that more had changed around here than the upholstery and light fittings.
Whilst designer David d’Almada has done a fine job of improving the design and overall ambiance thanks to a heated terrace, bar with cicchetti counter and two private dining rooms, it was good to see that some things never alter; with Sartoria’s much-revered head sommelier, Michael Simms, who happens to be one of the most astute wine experts in the industry (formerly of Claridge’s and The Savoy), on hand to recommend the best grapes for your pound; from reasonably priced Chianti Classicos (around the £40-£60 region) to an £800 Barolo.
But does the food justify such a wine purchase? The answer is, if you earn that or more for a consultancy fee, then perché no! (why not). The menu, inspired by Mazzei’s home region of Calabria and the surrounding areas, reads simply but over-delivers in terms of flair and execution. He isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel, which is a relief considering that Italian cuisine, at its best, should only seek to make the humblest of ingredients sing in a way that is surprisingly difficult to achieve in your kitchen at home.
If you’re a child of the ’70s or ’80s, the very word ‘lasagne’ might conjure up nightmares of your mother’s own unique take on it, or some flabby offering she bought from M&S when she was too lazy to cook. And although Martin Scorsese once posed the question, “If your mother cooks why go to an Italian restaurant?”, he wouldn’t have asked if he’d had my mother. I therefore recommend that you dine at Sartoria if only to banish any lasagne demons once and for all…
Here the ‘Pastachijna’ (a lasagne from Southern Italy) is presented in a rectangle of the finest layers, so dainty and delicious that you will want to weep on finishing the last bite. Never mind the new restaurant design, for a brief moment (and this may have been aided by the wine) I closed my eyes and was transported to a sun drenched Italy in late August. I was awoken from this reverie by the arrival of the most gigantic veal Milanese for two that I have ever seen; sliced table side, complete with bone and accompanied with a fresh salad as well dressed as the diners.
In my opinion, no good Italian meal should ever end with anything other than a Tiramisu, and this one certainly had the seal of approval from my husband who blamed its remarkable lightness for the reason he devoured it in three spoonfuls (give or take the ones I stole). But if you can’t manage a full-blown dessert I urge you to at least sample the home-made gelato, as good a use for chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla as man ever invented.
Front of house could up their game in order to do justice to the kitchen however, for although I make allowances for the fact that this is effectively the suit ‘fitting’ stage for the restaurant, there did appear to be a lack of staff on the floor on the evening we dined, especially when taking into account that this is a 100 cover dining room. Silly things, like the fact that I was seated on a banquette but no-one offered to help my husband pull out the table when I arrived or wished to leave. If they want to be rustic, that’s fine too, just don’t mislead customers with white linens. It wasn’t enough of an issue to take the shine off an otherwise superb experience though, and errors of this kind will surely be ‘ironed out’ over the next few months.
As the only restaurant on Savile Row, Sartoria is already showing all the signs of becoming the Mayfair hot spot it once was; with the food easily beating other long-established local Italian haunts such as Cecconi’s and Cipriani (or C Restaurant as it has been known since the court ruling), and being more on a par with the kitchens of the one star Locanda Locatelli and dare I say it, Mr Scorsese’s late mother.
Sartoria, 20 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PR. For more information and reservations visit the website.