UK / Europe

Dishing out conviviality at a Belgravia banquet

Amy Hughes

It’s a rare, snowy Saturday night, mid-winter in London and it feels like a perfect night to stay in. But, I’m expected at Il Convivio for an evening of mostly northern Italian fare. The Victorian townhouse is well-positioned in a charming part of Belgravia, now inhabited by trendy delis and cupcake bakeries.

The soft lighting and gentle music set a good mood, though the small space heater does an even better job at getting us warmed up. My companion instantly goes for the hearty, wintry menu which, at £23.50 for two courses, feels like a bargain. I decide to defy the weather in favour of my waistline and begin with the salmon served with grapefruit, olive oil, capers, dill and leeks. I’m drawn in by the salmon and citrus combination, and if the salmon had been cured with the grapefruit, or grapefruit juice infused with the olive oil, this dish would have serious impact. It’s not bad, but it could be great. I’m told the leek and potato soup, however, gets a great lift with the addition of smoked haddock.

Service is warm and friendly while we move on to mains. A double-roasted pork belly with potato roti and mixed mushrooms arrives in a red wine sauce. My companion reports, “Lovely crackling, the fat is perfectly cooked.”  I take her word for it and dig in to my monkfish filet wrapped in wide ribbons of zucchini seared on the grill. The smoky flavour transports this American to a 4th of July barbecue and I can’t get enough. Having foregone the Parma ham wrapper, the chef kindly added a red pepper salsa to the plate. The fresh fennel and mint salad is light and crisp and would be perfect in summer.

The most interesting dish of the night turns out to be the spinach side.  It arrives, not bitter and soaking in olive oil, as is so traditional, but clean and with a slight hint of something sweet. I’m perplexed and the fact-finder inside needs to know the preparation.  An interrogation of the Maitre D’ reveals it’s been boiled and sautéed very quickly in a pan with a dash of cinnamon.   It is simply amazing, and one to try at home.

We finish with a passion fruit parfait and a bit of gelato, but forget about what’s on the menu. The real treat is the tiny truffle brownie served with tea and coffee. It’s definitely worth getting fat for.  Apparently the chef has a bit of a passion for pastries and whips up a new petit four each evening. If you’re at all a fan of dark chocolate, melt in your mouth, but not too sweet, cross your fingers and hope you time your visit with bite-size brownie night. You may be tempted to order an entire plate of them.

IL Convivio

143 Ebury Street
London SW1W 9QN
+44 (0) 20 7730 4099

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