It’s freezing outside, one of London’s unseasonably cold nights, when I step into Babbo, an Italian restaurant in Mayfair with perfectly dimmed lighting and chandeliers, creating an elegant but not too formal atmosphere.
I’m shown to my table, a banquette seat sandwiched a bit too tightly in between two other tables. I suggest a lone table for two along a staircase and am rebuffed … until Alessio arrives. Alessio, the manager, instantly puts things right. I’d like to believe he’d do the same for the average punter.
My guest arrives, and Alessio returns to suggest a four course extravaganza, with wines to match. It’s a good wine list, with plenty of price points. Babbo takes their wine so seriously, there’s a special table for the sommelier to pour and aerate.
We do our best to choose both light and heavy dishes. We begin with a salad dotted with artichokes, grilled chicken and creamy pearls of mozzarella. It’s a refreshing change from the typical “insalate misto” on most menus. And, the caprese di burrata arrives looking like a ball of whipped cream, and tastes just as light and silky. It’s firm on the outside, and an explosion of mellow cream in the center. Only politeness prevents me from taking the last morsel.
So far, so secondi…we’re feeling good, with plenty of room for the next course, except Alessio has insisted we order Babbo’s signature lasagne. He failed to mention it can feed two people who’ve been on a hunger strike for days. It’s heavy on the béchamel, and oh-so-creamy. We beg for a doggie bag and try the melanzane, a small stack of grilled aubergine with melted parmiagiana and mozzarella. It’s a modern take on a classic and a lot more guilt-free.
At this point, we’re a bit weary of the mains … luckily I’ve ordered the seared tuna with wild mushrooms. But I can see my guest loosening her belt as she tucks in to the veal cheek with red wine sauce, on a mound of utterly smooth and creamy polenta which defied the normally doughy, gluey texture. There’s a creamy theme here. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to Alessio, and send the tuna back to the kitchen after it arrives ghostly white, looking more like pork. It returns cooked perfectly rare, but could do with a drizzle of olive oil, perhaps a bit of lemon and some mild seasoning. And my heart sinks over the mushrooms which appear to have been put through a dehydrator. The side dishes of zucchini fritti, and an unusual, but simple dish of green beans in a spicy tomato sauce are delicious. I put politeness aside and demolish the peperoncini beans.
There’s barely room for dessert, but a quick glance catches my eye as none of the usual suspects are there. No tiramisu, no panacotta. Instead, there’s sweet burrata, pistachio crème brulee, and mascarpone ice cream…divine.
Babbo is a lovely, warm, sophisticated place. Stick with Alessio’s advice and order what they do best, fresh burrata, classic mains, and great wines, then treat yourself to mascarpone ice cream and you’ll walk away feeling well looked after, even if Alessio is off that night.
+44 (0)203 205 1099
39 Albemarle St, London W1S 4JQ,