This cavernous Italian restaurant in Marylebone is worth visiting for the award-winning interior design alone. Packed with plants and physics-defying architectural curves, this is the latest venture from Kurt Zdesar, who established and developed Nobu worldwide before founding dim sum chain Ping Pong. Jordan Sclare, previously head chef at Nobu Park Lane, joins him as executive chef.
What's the deal? The Pranzo menu – literally ‘lunch’ – is great value for the upmarket Chiltern neighbourhood it resides in at £22 per person for three courses. It’s available weekdays from 12pm to 2.45pm, but choice is relatively limited, with only a couple of options per course, one veggie and one not-so-veggie. Starters are goat’s cheese salad or chicken liver pate; mains are pasta or pizza; and dessert is ice cream or an intriguing cheesecake brulee.
What should I order? If you’ve an equally unfussy dining companion, it makes sense to order the whole menu to try as much as possible. However, there are some definite winners and losers here. The salad starter is perfectly pleasant, letting a fantastically creamy cheese take centre stage backed up by a refreshing mint and orange dressing, but the chicken liver pate is just as clever as it is sublime. Spread thinly over a rosemary cracker and dotted with chilli jam, it avoids the cloying richness of other pates and is bursting with umami flavour. The wild mushroom pizza, made with wholewheat flour and crisped up in a wood-fired oven, was a bit of a soggy disappointment, but the cacio e pepe, made with fresh, noodley tonnarelli pasta in this iteration, was buttery but had bite, topped off with salty lardons and a decent grind of black pepper. Simple, heavy, but heavenly.
Room for dessert? There’s always room for ice cream, and Fucina’s is made in house. Flavours change, but there was a classic trio of hazelnut, pistachio and vanilla on my visit. In keeping with the restaurant’s firey oven theme, there’s also a wedge of cheesecake with a torched “brulee” top, but if you, like me, have a penchant for sophisticated adult versions of your favourite, custard-drenched childhood desserts, go off the set menu and order the sloppy, yet satisfying, port poached figs in mascarpone with milk ice cream.
Need to book? Yes, particularly towards the end of the week and if you want a table outside (there aren’t many). Book online through OpenTable or at fucina.co.uk or call 0207 058 4444
The verdict: Fucina is a welcome addition to the mixed bag of restaurants around Baker Street for its honest, straightforward Italian cooking, with a great value lunch menu in particular, but the setting and restaurant design is the real star.
And another thing… For larger corporate affairs, reserve the private space on the lower ground floor as it has a great view of the pasta kitchen if your attention begins to wander.