Restaurant Review: Savini at Criterion, Piccadilly in London
Within the 142 year old Grade II listed building, slap bang in the centre of Piccadilly Circus, Savini, the fine dining establishment from Milan, is the latest venture of the historic Criterion building; an ever changing chameleon with one of the most central of locations. Aside from the menu, suited to those with only the deepest of pockets, the glamour of its interior is something to marvel at with the impressive example of neo-Byzantine interior architecture originally designed by Royal Albert Hall architect Thomas Verity. Large, glittering chandeliers line the centre of the space with a gleaming gold mosaic ceiling above; good enough to stare at instead of down to your plate.
Dating back to 1867, Savini is one of Milan’s most famous restaurants. The recent London opening of Savini at Criterion is a representation of 150 years of Italian and English history with an authentic and traditional menu. Created using locally sourced produce and with a nod to Savini’s Italian heritage, signature dishes include veal ossobucco with saffron risotto; pappardelle with wild boar ragout & juniper sauce and, of course, Savini’s legendary tiramisu. At our white clothed table, seated toward the rear of this vast and largely unpopulated restaurant, we were offered Prosecco to start and a selection of breads. The broad menu is an appealing one with both starters and mains that caught our attention.
Starters include Burrata with plum tomatoes, rocket salad, basil sauce and crunchy bread, Mediterranean beef tartare, whole grain mustard and bread chips or mille-feuille of foie gras with plum compote, shallot chutney, pan brioches and balsamic vinegar drops. We started with the ‘from the sea’ section of the elegant menu. Octopus carpaccio – was delicately sliced and served with sweet paprika potato croquettes, “Taggiasca” olives and tomato confit. The sautéed king prawns with browned butter I was pleased with, soft and succulent with marinated anchovies and toasted bread, goat cheese and chives.
From sea to land for our mains. Beef fillet was cooked in butter, asparagus, bacon, potato cream and mustard which satisfactorily fell apart on the knife, although at £33.50 you would expect nothing less! The pork belly with agro-dolce baby onions, potato chips and balsamic vinegar had a beautiful flavour and just the right amount of fat to meat ratio, delightfully meeting expectations. For our sides, classic French fries – not so Italian? And buttered spinach which was good but had clearly only been given the briefest of nods to a hot pan. All this was served alongside an incredibly aromatic red – not something I would have usually gone for but was a recommendation by the waiter in any case. An Italian cheese selection to finish concluded to be nothing to write home about. In comparison to the other courses the cheese was untextured, rubbery and with little flavour; perhaps I should have gone for Savini’s legendary tiramisu!
Dating back to 1867 and gaining the name Savini in 1884, the original restaurant in Milan is around the corner from the Teatro alla Scala opera house which led to it quickly becoming the celebrity hang out of its day, with even Sinatra who considered buying it. The Huffington Post has described Savini’s new London home Criterion, in Piccadilly, as one of the Top 10 most historic restaurants in the world, and with this impressive badge it is a shame that its inner identity hasn’t managed to maintain itself. I wonder how long this Italian residence will reside. A truly gorgeous setting with a lovely menu, it is a shame this restaurant rattles due to eye watering price tags. Although in saying this, Savini is doing a fantastic job at preserving the heritage and glamour of a historic space.
Address: 224 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HP, 02079301459, saviniatcriterion.co.uk