If you conjure up an image of traditional Italian dining, you might visualise red checkered table cloths, huge canvases of the Roman coliseum, and giant peppercorn mills standing by pots of shaved parmesan. But how would you visualise a classy fine dining Italian joint in Mayfair? Not sure? No, neither were we when we ventured to the restaurant with no name at 5 Pollen Street in Mayfair.
While there’s nothing better than taking in the sometimes frantic and bustling atmosphere of a traditional Italian restaurant, sometimes, don’t you want to put your stilettos on and experience some Italian finesse? Well 5 Pollen Street seems to have that.
Walk past the five or six eateries which line this narrow road between Hanover and Maddox Street and you could miss its sophisticated yet plain exterior.
The bar is equally tiny, but just about long enough to perch on a bar stool and sip an aperitif of Prosecco.
The restaurant is narrow and seats an intimate number of tables to cover around 60 meals in one sitting. There are no red and white table cloths in sight. But there is spotlessly starched white linen with the finest china and glassware. The room is lit with art-deco chandeliers and the walls are covered in bold yellow and pastel-coloured printed wall paper and brightly-coloured artwork by Gary Hume. Garlic bread is nowhere to be seen. But fresh granary rolls with olive oil are just as tasty as you peruse the a la carte menu.
While I opted for the Fritto Misto (£11.00) to start, my guest went for the Parma Ham with pecorino and pears (£11.50). A light, tasty and sweet antipasto. We were impressed.
The vegetable Fritto Misto was served as a bed of finely chopped vegetables, sultanas and pine nuts topped with cheese. The sweetness of the sultanas contrasted with the milky-ness of the cheese and was a delight in the mouth.
A glance down at the pasta and risotto section of the menu revealed a selection of ravioli, risotto, parpardelle, gnocchi and cannelloni. But each had an inventive and unpredictable edge which I hoped set it high above your average Italian.
Ravioli comes with beetroot and poppy seeds, the risotto is flavoured with saffron and comes with pan fried bone marrow and the pappardelle is cooked with duck leg ragu, black pepper and orange zest – you won’t find straight forward spaghetti Bolognese in this establishment.
After a long peruse over the mains of sea bass, baby chicken, veal and oxtail, I opted for the open ravioli with lobster ragu and mixed vegetables (£27.00) while my guest ordered the pan fried fillet of lemon sole with a fennel puree, mussels and tomato confit (£22.50).
Both were delicately presented but surprisingly rich and flavoursome. The lobster ragu was slightly salty but a pleasant way of mixing two of my favourite foods in one dish. The lemon sole was fresh and the tomato ragu worked well. While you can tell a good Italian by its Tiramisu, we had to admit the Pears poached in red wine with cinnamon, aniseed and pannacotta won hands down.
Accompanied by a bottle of Casamatta Bianco Toscana – a dry white from Tuscany – we concluded this was classy yet relaxed Italian dining which was probably worth coming back for. We don’t need Roman artwork to remind us of an authentic Italian, here, the food speaks for itself.
5 Pollen Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 1NE (020) 7629 1555
By Lucy McGuire