I’ve always enjoyed the gourmet shenanigans of the effervescent celebrity chef, Gino D’Acampo, well-known for his catchphrase “fantastico”. And so I was pleased to dine at his London restaurant, Luciano by Gino D’Acampo, to enjoy his newly launched Italian menu at this 100-cover restaurant.
Finding it was a tad confusing as Luciano by Gino D’Acampo is attached to the ME hotel and gives its address as The Strand, where the ME hotel has its entrance. However, Luciano restaurant is actually on Aldwych opposite the Novello theatre, a great location for theatre goers.
We enter into a bold, stunning reception area with thick black wooden furniture with gold flourishes, and this leads to an interior with an entirely different decor of blue pastel and wood.
It was a heady summer evening, and the floral displays around the entrance and the friendly chatter on the terrace made this a truly summery alfresco scene. Perhaps they were tucking into one of the salads, such as the Loch Duart salmon comprising avocado, chestnut mushrooms and crispy guanciale or the grilled broccoletti and asparagus with grapes, chickpeas and warm croutons.
Our table was waiting inside, in a bright, breezy, elegant space. The walls have light blue wallpaper patterned with exotic birds and oversized wildflowers, seats are in light blue soft leather and checkered fabric, wood floors and a mirrored ceiling donned with eye-catching cream cone-shaped lamp shades that shed a pleasing light over marble-top tables.
There’s also a long bar with comfy stools, where, if you happen to be a little early, you can sip a Vespa (of James Bond fame) – as we did – or a brand new signature cocktail such as s Lamponi e Rosa, a blend of Bombay Sapphire gin, Hayman’s Sloe gin.
At the far end, the chefs whizz around preparing orders in the open kitchen. There is background music courtesy of a live DJ, and I wondered at his choice of “House Music”, the kind that has that loud monotonous beat that, for me, is distracting.
The starters were interesting; Minestrone, wild king prawns with chilli. We chose the deliciously tangy fillet steak tartare topped with a Burford Brown egg yolk served with crunchy thin flat bread and satisfyingly al-dente asparagus served with poached Burford Brown egg and pecorino cheese.
There’s plenty of choice on the new menu, including spaghetti with clams, cherry tomato, garlic, chilli and parsley, a personal favourite of the Italian chef and an entire grilled lobster in Catalana sauce.
Not partial to seafood, we chose Chicken Alla Luciano, charlotte potato, lemon, rosemary and the Veal Milanese with crispy zucchini fritti and rosemary potatoes.
The chicken was terrific though we found the veal to be slightly overcooked, but perhaps that is down to personal taste.
The desserts were delicious, not that we had much appetite by now since our dishes were generous. But, being traditionalists, we had to choose the Tirimisu and the Bomboloni – Italian doughnuts with a raspberry and white chocolate sauce.
VERDICT: There were a couple of very minor gremlins, but mostly this elegant restaurant can best be described by the word Gino D’Acampo has made his own: “fantastico’.
For more info, visit Luciano by Gino D’Acampo.