For some unknown reason, diners are in short supply at Saraceno. Maybe it’s the location on a street full of karaoke bars; maybe it’s because the restaurant is housed in the foyer of a boutique hotel. On one of the nights we visited we were the only diners. It’s a crying shame, because this Italian restaurant deserves to have plenty more patrons. The food is fantastic, the wine list well priced, the service warm and attentive, and the ambience perfectly pleasant. The only thing that’s missing is a few more customers.
A starter of Parma ham with spinach leaves and porcini mushrooms was a perfect example of the simple, rustic fare on offer; you just can’t beat fresh produce treated with respect. The beef carpaccio was similarly delicious with its clean, well-balanced flavours. An amuse bouche of beetroot with cream cheese made for a tasty bite packed with texture, creaminess and acidity; the starter of clams and mussels in a chilli broth was bursting with spice – the chilli added a kick and garlic toast gave an extra crunch.
Beef cheek braised in red wine, served with a creamy potato mash to offset the richness of the meat, was a deceptively complex dish. The chef told us it takes him two days to carefully braise it in an oven – now that’s commitment. A dish of linguine with lobster in a white-wine sauce was also memorable. The generous portion of lobster meat was plump and juicy, while the pasta was given an added depth of flavour by boiling it in fish stock. Another main, a deconstructed lasagne with prawns and zucchini, fell a little flat, its slightly overcooked prawns in need of more flavour than an accompanying burnt-sage butter could provide. Calf liver on a bed of gnocchi was served as requested – slightly rare and pink in the middle.
A dessert of chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream made the perfect ending to the meal, with warm chocolate oozing from a surprisingly light sponge. And this is just a small selection from what’s on offer: I spied about five other dishes I’d be willing to come back for. Other touches such as complimentary olives, home-made breads with a punchy olive oil and an after-dinner limoncello added to the experience.
With great food and impeccable service checked off the list, all this undiscovered gem lacks is a loyal clientele who’ll bypass the karaoke bars and liven the place up.
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