Review: Veronica Blake
ITALIAN restaurants fall into two categories. Little Trattorias
serving up classic dishes on a budget, with a menu unchanged since
the Sixties, when the owner caught the train from his native Napoli
to work as a waiter in Soho.
Check tablecloths, candles in a chianti bottle, the sweet trolley
and waiters strutting around with pepper mills, a notch up from
Wimpy Bars yet affordable to all, though today standards like
Spaghetti Bolognaise, Lasagna or Veal Escalope are not quite so
alluring today as they might have been in the Sixties.
At the other end of the scale you have the super stylish expensive
Italian restaurants like Cecconis, Locanda Locatelli and Cipriani.
As stylish as a Gucci jacket and as expensive.
Unless you happened to be Madonna, Stella or Gwyneth and in
possession of a Platinum card, you are not likely to get a reservation
this side of Christmas.
Then Latium stepped into the breach, providing
a refreshing antidote to the humble trat, or the celeb-obsessesed
pretentious elitism of the more expensive restaurants.
You don’t have to be Madge, Cherie, or Angelina to get
a table at Latium, but you might spot them though popping into
Sandersons across the road. This pleasantly minimalist Italian
restaurant is the antidote to the extravagances of Schrager’s
hotel and the food here is superior for a fraction of what you’d
pay in Asia de Cuba.
Conveniently placed for theatreland, there is a two-course dinner
for £21.50 and three courses for a bargain £25.50.
Like a scene from a wedding party in the Godfather Part 1, Latium
was packed with long tables full of lively young Italians on the
night we visited. It's always a good sign when you see natives
endorsing a restaurant.
A couple of Texans at the next table
recommend we try the Ravioli colorati ai Quattro Pesci, a delicious
Primi Piatti selection of fish ravioli with sea bass bottarga.
An excellent choice.
They also tipped us about the hand-made chocolates served with
coffee and recommended we pass on the desert since the chocolates
There’s real flair and passion in the cooking at Latium.
Jointly owned by young chef owner, Maurizzio Morelli, and manager,
Antonio Cerelli, who’s love of good food, wine and good
company shines through in this light pleasant restaurant.
Maurizio has taken Italian cuisine to another level. Light years,
in fact, from the stodgy pasta a la Nonna. After all, we are no
longer toiling the fields, so do we really need those huge plates
of pasta smothered in cream and parmesan?
Maurizio blends the best of traditional and modern into a healthy
and delicious style for today’s more health conscious diner.
Grilled filet of tuna with grilled vegetables, balsamic vinegar
and lemon dressing, and red mullet wrapped with panacetta, crush
potato prawns and leaf garlic, or fillet of sea bass with red
pepper sauce, spinach and roast asparagus.
Pork belly slowly cooked in the oven, gratinated with mash potatoes
and cod, with savoy cabbage and spring onions, all display an
eclectic and enlightened touch in the kitchen.
Even better, there’s no need to order a bottle of wine
since there are a variety of excellent wines available by the
glass, unlike most restaurants where you can only order the house
plonk by the glass.
Even the modern art here is imaginative, unlike the predictable
B/W photographs so often standard fare in restaurants today.
On the Texan oil baron’s advice, we skipped desert and
opted for the delicious dish of complimentary chocolates served
Latium is a real find. Discover it now before Madge, Angelina
or Cherie do! And it becomes like the Ivy where you’ll have
a six-month wait for a table.
21, Berners Street,
Tel: 020 7323 9123