St James’ Market, SW1Y
Everyone knows what Italian food is about, but could you name a distinctly Venetian dish? If you can’t, educate and treat yourself at the same time with a visit to Veneta. Stuffed full of regional delicacies like bigoli (fat spaghetti) and spice trade seasonings (plenty of saffron and cardamom), it specialises in Italian sharing plates with a raw seafood bar.
It’s one of two new restaurants that have made the Crown Estate’s £400m St James’ Market development its home.
This is the fifth restaurant from Ben Tish and Simon Mullins, founders of the Salt Yard Group, a series of Italian and Spanish tapas bars and restaurants in the West End, comprising Salt Yard, Opera Tavern, Ember Yard and Dehesa.
There are few things more enticing on a cold winter’s night than the promise of spiced, smokey strips of lamb leg, with potatoes roasted in its fat. Braised Jerusalem artichokes are hearty and crisped up like little baked potatoes, served with cavolo nero, gorgonzola cream and truffle. Over on the raw bar, fennel pollen adds bite to a mackerel tartare, but who cares about subtlety when there’s a creamy pile of Cornish crab nearby, plumped up with spoonfuls of spiced mayonnaise.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE?
Long teal banquettes and a busy bar lend the place a communal feel. It isn’t terribly private, but there’s a good amount of buzz for nights out with friends and sharing plates are great conversation pieces in business meetings. Book at saltyardgroup.co.uk/veneta or call 020 3874 9100.
King of the in-house cocktails is Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano (yes, the song in The Talented Mr Ripley), a gin-based grapefruit number jazzed up with saffron honey soda. Mullins has curated a Northern Italian wine list along with a number of local vermouths and bitters.
GIVE IT A MISS...
The pumpkin gelato is a pleasant seasonal idea that’s pretty bland in reality. The cheese-stuffed ravioli was too al dente and nowhere near as gooey as I’d have hoped either.
Though Salt Yard has moved to a smarter area for its latest tapas restaurant, it’s brought the lively atmosphere of Soho with it. For all the food industry’s talk of ‘new concepts’, this Venetian theme is genuinely original and fun, complemented by a chatty, attentive front-of-house team.
ONE MORE THING...
It’s the first Salt Yard restaurant to offer breakfast, which sounds indulgent; smoked salmon topped with black truffle butter and a frittelle (a sort of Italian doughnut) with chocolate and saffron custard.