Published on February 9th, 2012 | by ladyparker0
Review: Consistently Satisfying: Zafferano in Knightsbridge (London, UK)
Summary: Great for lunch or dinner, Zafferano is a Knightsbridge institution. A superb Italian-orientated wine list guarantees some top drops are on offer - you can spend as much money as you like.
If you are ever in wonder about London’s ability to deliver cuisine of an exceptionally high standard that is not traditional British fare, step inside Zafferano in Knightsbridge, where a polished yet amiable Italian experience awaits you.
Besides a veritable feast! Cordial staff will welcome all those who enter the door, however you’ll be extremely lucky to get a table if you’ve not booked ahead. The embracive splendour of the surroundings suffuses slowly. It is a fit out that is not by any means excessive or grandiose – the exposed brick walls will attest to that. However by the same token, this is definitely not a plebeian Osteria d’Italia either. Sumptuous pastel/metallic pinstripe fabrics envelop the chairs while polished wooden floors and large solid mirrors reflect the enormous floral displays – it would be a hard pressed task not to exhibit such blooms seeing as the area is so well-stocked with florist shops. The juxtaposition of mediums is harmonious, the lighting just right – tables highlighted while softly accentuating the facial features of those dining.
The options upon arriving to this Lowndes Street institution are to be escorted straight to a dining table in the restaurant or to instead recline in the mellifluous bar, with the brick feature wall behind you alluringly luminescent. Start perusing the wine list now over a glass of Champagne (the house pour is Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque – an excellent, complex NV). As you would expect the wine range is Italian-centric but compiled seriously well. It covers all the favourites and big names alongside some excellent smaller producers who should not be overlooked – for example, Fontodi and Massolino. By this time a delectable board of focaccia, Parmigiano and Coppa ham has appeared on your table. Freshly baked, fractured and slivered – they’re real modicums of Italian culture.
Zafferano wears its Michelin star with style and unpretentiousness – it’s what we love about the place and what keeps us going back for more. With more visits than I dare say I can recall, I’ve not had an experience that has dissatisfied. A consistently excellent menu and wine list sees this at one of my top restaurants in London, for lunch or dinner.
The risotto creations baffle with their superlative flavour and texture – they change regularly and depending on season, generally on a ‘for two’ basis and are a sure way to invoke sighs of pleasure across the table. A paragon is the saffron and zucchini flower rendition, the delicate ingredients melt, fuse together then linger on the palate, with a creamy consistency the entire dish is wickedly insouciant about its delightfulness. A very rich speciality if you strike the right season, is the foie gras and black truffle risotto. Not for the faint hearted but again incredibly good.
The panoply of pasta is just as satisfying – whether you have a penchant for tagliatelle, penne, parpadelle or ravioli, you will be jubilant with these modern renderings. I was taken with both the homemade pappardelle with braised beef cheeks, and chestnut tagliatelle with wild mushrooms featuring over winter.
From the secondi offerings, the chargrilled tuna with rocket and cherry tomatoes is the perfect lunch time satiation – cooked simply and medium-rare it is a picture of game fish perfection.
Don’t even bother looking at the rest of the dessert plates, just go straight for the tiramisù, in my stakes the best I’ve ever come across. Presented innovatively and so balanced with cream and liqueur equilibrium you will not want to share – ensure only one spoon is provided and guard it zealously!
And importantly to the wine. The Felsina Fontalloro 1994 from Tuscany was an absolute highlight with its morello cherry, coltar character, old rustic cigar box and almost woodcutters apron nose. Combine this with beautiful soft oak tannin and redolent savoriness on the palate and you’ve got yourself a 97 point wine, if the closure will oblige. We’ve also enjoyed the wonderful Massolino Barolo 2006 from Piedmont exuding old roses, tar and savoury earthiness, taut acid and tannin and long length – it’s a very reasonable buy for the quality. Livio Felluga’s Friulano 2009 is an expressive, complex example of this native grape variety from Fruili – a great starter or lunchtime savourer.
Considering the reputation of this establishment I’m astounded at the value – though at the high-end for this inspiriting (and generally surfeiting) experience. With wine prices ranging from accessible to the absurd, one to four courses of dishes on offer, and a tastefully colourful and warming surrounding, this restaurant lives up to its name – that delicate flavorful spice, saffron. However unlike its name, it won’t cost you the earth – unless you want it to!
15 Lowndes Street
London SW1X 9EY
Tel 020 7235 5800