As my date and I shuffled along the stations, pointing out our choices of salads, breads and cheeses through glass display counters, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was eating at a sandwich shop. Luckily, this slightly surreal feeling was usurped by a selection worthy of the famous Milanese deli brand. What’s more, most of the counters were staffed by bona-fide Italians (a nice touch), who will patiently talk guests through the selection before bringing it to the table whenever you so desire. I opted for classic tomato and mozzarella, carpaccio with cold sautéed mushrooms and parmesan shavings, oven-dried tomatoes and an olive bread so tasty that it presented the very real danger I would fill myself up before my mains arrived.
We then headed for the restaurant’s all-encompassing pork room, which features prosciutto, cooked ham and a variety of salamis – including a chilli variety – but even one of the senior chefs commented that the room could do with a dash of background music: I could have cut the atmosphere with his carving knife.
I began my à la carte selection with a lasagne that, while tasty, contained far too much salt and was swimming in béchamel sauce – a tad more tomato would have helped carry the flavour of the minced beef. My date opted for a thick, sieved tomato soup, which was possibly the simplest yet tastiest thing we ate all day. Veal with fontina cheese was the stand-out main, even after my mispronunciation of the name was snootily corrected, and the sautéed spinach was perfect – just the right amount of garlic and not too much butter – although the lamb skewers were all but incinerated.
An apple tart that promised greatness proved to taste too strongly of rosemary, but the cheesecake was exemplary, and we followed our dessert with delicious pecorino cheese (watch that one – it’s easy to get carried away) as Italian bubbly continued to flow freely from bottles grasped by cheery and helpful staff. Hit and miss would be an unfair assessment of the brunch, but for every wonderful dish on the menu, there seems to be another that will leave you feeling rather unsatisfied.