The menu comes with a disclaimer from the manager: that Lombardian food is traditionally very mild and subtle in flavour. This doesn’t end up being the issue, though. My crunchy octopus is served with fluffy potatoes, green beans and green apple. Regretfully, my nuggets of octopus, while coated in a fine crumb, offer no discernable crunch but rather a lot of chew. The ‘fluffy potatoes’ are more like a starchy sauce. The crispy green apples and green beans offer a nice bit of freshness, though.
My dining companion orders the Perfect Egg, with asparagus, liquid parmesan and crostini. Sadly, the egg – slowly sous vided to result in, presumably, a delicious, creamy yolk – had its taste completely obliterated by the liquid parmesan. The texture is also none too pleasing, despite being eaten by a lover of soft-boiled eggs. It’s also incredibly rich.
Other antipasti options on the menu include a vertical salad with emmenthal, mixed greens and tartare sauce, and seabass tartare with a yoghurt sauce.
Move on to options like risotto Milanese, spaghetti turanici with smoked beef tartar, pea ravioli and oyster tagliolini. The risotto ends up being the highlight of my meal. As disclaimed by the manager, the risotto doesn’t offer an explosion of robust flavour; rather a subtle savouriness with just a touch of saffron. Marco Pierre White would approve of the way the golden risotto ‘walks’ across the plate, each grain separate, loose and deliciously al dente. Delicate pistils of saffron and crunchy flakes of baked Parmesan round off the sensory experience beautifully.
Next arrives the sea bass, baked on an aromatised brick of salt. It’s gorgeously plated on a round salt slab with zesty veggies cooked to textbook perfection. The skin is deliciously crispy and the flesh flavourful, flaky and not under- or over-cooked by a second.
For dessert, we share the hazelnut spread and passion fruit – a good thing, since the portion is huge. The sorbet is refreshingly zingy, not too sweet, with granadilla, and serves as a necessary foil to the rich denseness of the dark chocolate hazelnut mousse and sponge. Is it enjoyable? Definitely. The best we ever had? Not by a mile.
We’re welcomed with complimentary flutes of prosecco spiked with peach liqueur, which is a nice touch. The wine list focuses on local estates – including Catherine Marshall, Elgin Ridge and Thorne and Daughters – and, should you need any recommendations, there’s a sommelier at hand. There’s also a small selection of imported Italian aperitifs and digestifs, including Fernet-Branca, Nardini grappa and Distilleria Berchidda Lucrezio limoncello.
Initially, the servers felt overly formal and attentive, and kind of awkward, but that might have had something to do with the fact that we were the only patrons in the restaurant at that stage. As the place started filling up – and boy, did it ever – it’s as if the service thawed and became much more seamless. The manager especially was an extremely gracious host, guiding us through our dining options but never hovering.
It was eerily quiet when we arrived at 7pm on a Friday evening but, an hour in, the place was packed, transforming from rather stiff and formal to convivial and buzzy. The décor has retained some remnants of the previous restaurant, but has been spruced up with a host of new abstract artworks mounted on bull clips – an interesting counterpoint to the crisp white linen table cloths and super swish cutlery.
To build a bit of gees, be sure to go for a warm-up drink (or two) at Seta, on the first floor of Villa 47.
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