Mayfair is quite a tightly defined area, and encompasses some interesting slices of history that never seem to detract from its upmarket allure. Saville Row, probably the world’s most famous street for tailoring is less than 5 minutes away from Shepherds market where ladies of easy virtue plied their charms for many years, and even today, you can pass from the tawdry to the stylish in a heartbeat, but it’s never cheap. Pop stars and the famous often hang out in Mayfair, but unless it’s a big star on social media whose fan base will camp out all night for a glimpse of their idol, you seldom see more of an eyebrow raised. When it comes to eating it’s the same – mature chefs and the big names predominate, and it’s much harder to find a Hipster trendy than a Michelin star. Mayfair diners like discreet class, whether it be lunchtime relaxed and easy or an evening of Tasting Menu pomp.
Lady H and I are out for a bit of relaxed lunchtime indulgence, so we`ve popped along to Camillo Benso in Blenheim Street. It`s just a few metres away from New Bond St crowds, but far enough from the action to unwind, so we sink into viridian green velvet seats and get glasses of wine ordered up while we look at the menu. It’s an easy choice for Lady H, Salt Cod & Crispy Polenta being a particular favourite, and it does not disappoint. In fact it’s so good, she immediately orders another glass of wine to celebrate. I`m on the Beef Carpaccio and Black Truffle, and the meat is delicious. I would no doubt have had a less steady hand if I`d shaved the truffle myself (dishing up about double as I`m a real fan) and could have wished for a bit more punch from the mustard, but it was a subtly accomplished dish.
We are in familiar territory with the mains – Calves Liver & Onions with a side of spinach for her, and the Turbot with black olives, capers and baby vine tomato for me. I also ordered a Zucchini Fritti as a side, which was finely shaved and very light, but the real star of the show was the turbot which was for me the dish of the day. Flavoursome, great texture, and a great interplay between the flavours. This is the kind of cooking that elevates a relaxing lunch into mmm, let’s spend the whole afternoon here! Regrettably we had plans, but I was sorely tempted. Lady H was very pleased with her liver, but could have stood a little more brevity on the onions. You can`t criticise generosity though, and it’s a proper dish of the people not some strained reinterpretation or “deconstruction”
Blissfully well fed, we could have almost skipped desserts. Did I just write that? The angel of the left shoulder was about to get a talking to by the other one from the dark side. C`mon fella, this is no time to ignore your sweet tooth, forget your futile New Year’s resolutions and take another look at that menu. I didn`t even have to count to three – the devil had won again, and I ordered a Caprese to share. Not billed as flourless, it nonetheless had exactly that texture and flavour, so perhaps there was a small nod to the angels after all. Lady H had a large grappa with her coffee, convinced she would have no trouble at the Pearly Gates.
Camillo Benso reservations on 020 7629 8889