The quiet corner of Chesham Place and Pont Street is one of those historic London sites which have endured the test of time, surviving a bombing in 1940 to metamorphose into a series of modern boutique hotels over the years.
Its current avatar is The Hari, which has succeeded in softening the harsh edges of the ’50s style building with simple yet striking touches, such as the midnight-blue lettering and the lush greens buttressing its glass exteriors.
Bolder changes include the newly-opened Il Pampero. Marrying traditional cooking with a contemporary finish, the chic restaurant has all the potential of becoming my new favourite for Italian fine-dining in London…
Leading off directly from the Manhattan loft-like lobby, it’s a cheerfully-bright and inviting space embracing a nostalgia for old-world glamour. Think cosy circular booths clad with vespa-green lacquers in soft and supple leather, and vividly retro tiles which quite effortlessly lend to a #IHaveThisThingWithFloors moment!
The bar occupies pride of place at the centre, an ideal spot for perching yourself at to people-watch over a pre-dinner aperitif, or if you fancy a more intimate tête-à-tête. And lending to the sense of occasion, the bartenders here don crisp white jackets as they deftly pour your champagne into elegant coupe glasses…
Under head chef Claudio Covino’s direction (previously of Locanda Locatelli), the dishes are quite skilfully served too. His emphasis on cooking from scratch was evident from the very beginning of our meal, manifested in the generous bread basket brought out to nibble on as we perused the menu (the selection included the likes of of smoked breadsticks and a fluffy yet rustic spinach bread).
Several sharing plates on the menu are to be finished at your table, a theatrical move meant to expose some of the cooking techniques at play. This includes the tagliolini cacio pepe, prepared by mixing the delicate ribbons of pasta in a large wheel of sheep’s cheese.
Sadly we missed out on this experience as we’d visited during the soft launch, but we did enjoy learning about the different types of Pecorino cheese which are not just bound to Rome (as I’d mistakenly thought) but can also be found in Tuscany, Sardinia and Sicily, with the profile and sweetness of this ewe’s cheese varying across regions. And as my lunch companion Su-Lin astutely remarked, our conversation with the maître d added much to the friendliness and authenticity of the restaurant.
As for the pasta itself, well this was one of the finest Cacio e Pepe’s I’ve had this side of Rome – the delicate strands wreathed in an full-bodied sauce, with a generous sprinkling of cracked black pepper punctuating the creaminess of it all. The fluffy breads served at the start were perfect for mopping up the leftover pool with, too. I believe the Italian phrase for this is fare la scarpetta!
We also enjoyed the sharp Pecorino cheese in a steely-fresh artichoke salad, saving ample room for desserts which offer a stylised take on Italian classics.
The tiramisu was quite novel in presentation, with just the one layer of sponge at the bottom delicately holding up a surprisingly-light block of mascarpone, while a few bittersweet drops of coffee were poured on top. The texture combination proved remarkably well-balanced, a scattering of nuts and shortbread-esque shards on the side adding a bit of a bite.
Caught up in happy chatter, our lunch easily extended into the early hours of the evening with bite-sized pieces of the Raspberry Sacher making for the perfect tea-time treat – the tart sweetness of the raspberries and raspberry-filling beautifully complementing the richness of the glazed chocolate coating.
As I mentioned earlier – we’d visited during the soft launch, a period usually aimed as a buffer to allow the restaurant to fine-tune its cooking techniques, presentation and service… Yet the slightly slow spell in service aside, all aspects of our meal were rather impeccable. We look forward to returning soon, the ceremonious table-side preparation of the Cacio e Pepe, providing a compelling reason enough to.
Il Pampero, The Hari, 20 Chesham Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 8HQ
If you fancy a read, here’s my round-up of other new London restaurants opened in 2017 (regularly updated with noteworthy openings).