Another day, another opening.
The latest: an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge reminiscent of Italy’s La Dolce Vita period, spanning the ’50s & ’60s.
Yes, but why sit up and make a reservation? Old world Italian charm is not unfamiliar in this part of town, which is home to stalwarts such as Scalini, Signor Sassi and Sale e Pepe.
Ahem. Spinning off from Harry’s Bar (a private members’ club in Mayfair), Harry’s Dolce Vita is helmed by Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings – the formidable group at the fore of some of London’s most fabulous establishments, from Annabel’s to 34 and Scott’s.
Situated rather conspicuously on Basil Street in Knightsbridge (right behind Harrods), the restaurant is as sybaritically-stylish as you’d expect of Caring (superlatives apply in spades); but delivers substance and a simply sublime sense of satisfaction too…
Walking in on an icy Monday afternoon, I find the restaurant alive with a warm chatter as dapperly-clad waiters deftly zip around the narrow passage, topping up champagne glasses and shaving white truffles all over heftily-portioned plates.
There’s a handsome bar by the entrance (an ideal spot for toasting a successful trip to Harrods or Sloane Street); supple leather seats to idly sink back against; and vintage artworks galore gracing the walls, in a curated throwback to the Italian films of yesteryear (including Fellini’s iconic La Dolce Vita).
That Harry’s Dolce Vita is an extension of Harry’s Bar is discernible in subtle traces – from the blue accents of the glassware to those same playful salt & pepper shakers on the table.
But while the private members’ club is hopelessly-exclusive – not to mention an altogether extravagant affair – the restaurant is accessible in more ways than one, catering as easily to locals as to passing shoppers, tourists and Londoners who’ve made a trip over. Relatively speaking, it’s also more modestly priced.
Billed as antipasti, Harry’s Taglioni (£9.50) amounts to a substantive main dish – the gratinated strands of tagliolini pasta clad seductively with cream, black truffles and heaps of melted parmesan. It’s a bit like Cacio e Pepe, but without the pepe and much, much richer.
As of early December, there’s also a dedicated white truffle menu celebrating this prized treasure of Piedmont.
The driest October which Italy has seen in 60 years means that white truffles are selling for up to (and over) €4,500 a kilo. At Harry’s Dolce Vita, each of these truffled dishes are priced at £25. No it’s not cheap, but it’s a good deal less expensive than other comparable establishments (including those part of Caprice Holdings’ large family of restaurants).
As such, my friend can only look on in unabashed delight whilst the ever-charming manager, Claudio (previously of Rambla Soho) shaves this sought-after delicacy all-too-generously over her parmesan and butter risotto. It’s a compelling combination, with the creaminess of the dish lapping up the musky tones of the white truffles entirely!
The all-encompassing menu also spans cicchetti (small plates), pizza, seafood and meat-heavy dishes.
For this vegetarian – it’s a beauty of a burrata which completes the pretty picture, accompanied by chargrilled veggies dressed lightly with basil pesto. Call me old-fashioned, but I often judge an Italian restaurant by the quality of this fresh, buffalo milk cheese… And unsurprisingly, the fine cloud of it before us is as silkily fresh as it could be.
The other litmus test is of course, the tiramisu – a dessert which literally translates to a “pick-me-up” in Italian.
The stylish presentation here is matched by the mood-elevating rush of each exhilaratingly-creamy bite (marvellously heightened by oodles of mascarpone). I’m trying not to fawn, but really – it’s been an impeccably-faultless afternoon thus far…
Of course, there’s no dearth of other Dolci at Harry’s Dolce Vita with a dedicated dessert menu for drop-in’s during the afternoon.
Harry’s Toad Stool is a signature creation, featuring white chocolate and mascarpone mousse, a luscious iced vanilla parfait, hidden raspberries (cocooned under the cap) and a scrummy pistachio biscotti crunch to soak up all the warm pistachio sauce doused on top.
It’s Instagram gold yes, but my honest verdict? It’s a tad too sweet with almost too much happening on the plate. I don’t regret ordering it for a one-time novelty appeal – oohing and aahing as it cracks apart to reveal the ensemble cast – but I’m likely to stick to Italian classics on my next revisit…
… And I have no doubt that I’ll be revisiting Harry’s Dolce Vita soon and often.
Because. That’s Amore.
Harry’s Dolce Vita, 27-31 Basil St, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1BB
More on London’s new and noteworthy restaurants from 2017, here.
Prices were correct at the time of writing.