Zafferano is nestled in one of London’s nicest parts- Belgravia. Around the corner you have Christian Louboutin, Bottega Veneta, Dior, Valentino,…and a few other things, that are nice and make you blend in with the rest of the crowd that lives here. The restaurant itself is pretty big for a starred-restaurant, but is cleverly divided into multiple rooms, which give you the feeling of a certain intimacy.
Service was very good, despite a pretty full house (on a Monday night). From that side there was nothing to question, and in general everything was swiftly delivered and bread was refilled without me having to beg for it.The latter however, was less grandiose. Typically Italian, everything (except for the grissini) was rather mediocre. It is certainly baked in the restaurant, but is devoid of crust, character or significant taste. The various types were all pretty similar from a textural point of view, which results in a rather monotonous bread basket. Olive oil was good, butter non-existent (as we were in an Italian restaurant, that was not a problem).
The first nibbles arrived promptly: Some mortadella, parmigiano reggiano, salami, and focaccia. These were all very enjoyable: The mortadella was of very good quality, as was the salami, but the parmesan was a little young to be served just like that. However, it did not hurt to have a little nibble whilst perusing the menu. Price-wise, three courses were around £45, whilst four are a tenner more. As, I came here with the purpose of eating white truffles from Alba, I had to add a further £35 to the bill for my truffled course. That is ten pounds more than at the Greenhouse for instance, but five less than the Square charges.
Another nibble was a cherry tomato, gratinated with pangrattato and fried parsely. This was pleasant and gave a good balance between sweet, lukewarm, rich tomato and crunchy breadcrumbs.
A starter was a green bean salad with cuttlefish, tomatoes and olive puree. This was unexpectedly good. The products, I was told, are mostly bought in from Italy, and some have even argued that the chef has people photograph the vegetable stands in order to be able to choose. This particular plate was a perfectly acceptable bean salad, one would do at home too. The beans were good, well cooked, and perfectly seasoned. What was special about the dish were the cuttlefish. These were not only very, very tender, but also very tasty. Overall, this was a good dish. (excuse the burry picture)
My primo was simple: Ravioli di fagiano al rosmarino. A few pasta-parcels stuffed with pheasant meat came floating in a nicely reduced pheasant jus, which was infused with rosemary. This was a great autumnal dish, which combined the pasta’s rusticity with some rather well executed classic jus. The ravioli were not as thin as they could have been, but that gave them a certain bite, which was more than welcome. The stuffing was most tasty, if a little on the drier side. A little foie gras or lardo di Colonnata would not have been unwelcome in this case. However, when sauced with the intense jus, it proved to be a most pleasant dish, that was very comfortably on 1*-level. Good.
But, the real reason for my coming was about to show up. A poached egg, with fonduta and porcini. There were also white truffles involved, which played the leading role in some sense. This was a great dish. Combining classical Piedmontese fonduta with the white truffles and eggs is not really what one could call innovative, but in this case it was very well executed, and every element acted as a pillow for the truffles. These could fully express their magical aroma and taste, upon these rich, if not overly powerful partners. The combination with the porcini was very good, as the truffles do have a similar taste. In short, to have a plate set in front of you, and have a liberal serving of these little diamonds shaved on top of it, is quite an experience. The smell they create is simply unforgettable, and should be experienced by anyone. Not to forget the incredibly delicate, fine taste, which came out marvelously well in this dish. A truly fantastic dish.
Dessert was a chocolate fondente with gianduja ice cream. Simple, often the last thing on a menu I would order but very well done here. The ice cream was very different from the one at Louis XV, but not bad by any means. It was creamy, not too sweet, but unfortunately a little cocoa-heavy (for a gianduja ice cream). The fondant itself (invented by Michel Bras in 1981), was not much like the original, but very nice: Not too sweet, strong chocolate, and perfectly melting core. Not that this is particularly tricky from a technical point of view, but it is very enjoyable when well done. Very good.
Petit-fours were forgettable. They presented no real interest, nor did they impress with their extremely precise confection. Coffee was good, which should be the case in a better Italian restaurant.
All in all, the truffle dish stole the show. Not that I expected anything else, but they are somewhat magical. The only time I have had some before, was in the kitchen of a Parisian 3*, which was an unforgettable moment. Here the dish gave them the perfect background to fully develop themselves. I absolutely loved the dish, which would have been most successful without them too. Wine-wise, we had a Pinot Gris from Suedtirol (the Italians call it Alto Adige), and a few glasses of very nice I Capitelli from Anselmi.
This was a good 1* meal, with the addition of the truffles. It’s a good casual place, if one doesn’t want to go through the ritual of the more sophisticated French-restaurants. However, one shouldn’t expect any life-changing experiences here, only good products, well cooked and simply served.