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Mozzarella in Mayfair goes glam

Cielo/Luxx
3 New Burlington Street W1S 2JF
020 7297 2893 www.cielorestaurant.co.uk, www.luxx-london.com
FOOD ***
SERVICE ****
ATMOSPHERE ***
Cost per person without wine: £50

THESE days, being a restaurant plain and simple just isn’t good enough. Since the credit crunch bit, we have entered a new realm of added value, and if you like to be entertained as you eat, this is your golden age. At Circus in Covent Garden, minimally-clothed fire-breathers cavort on tables between courses; at the Supper Club in Westbourne Park, everything from live sculpture to trapeze keeps your digestion ticking apace.

Well, at Cielo, there’s no song and dance as you eat, but there is an art gallery which was displaying some rather edgy-looking black and white photographs when we visited. The gallery serves as a kind of holding pen for people wanting to see and be seen without going into the restaurant itself (the crowd here is the type who just might want to check out who is eating before going in). It’s also where the door down to Luxx, the club, is, and so serves as a queuing area away from the elements. But more on that later.

The food at Cielo is good – presided over by ex-Zefferano chef Claudio Illuminati. I’ll come to that later, too. But first, it is important to stress that this is a scene before it’s a restaurant, and that scene is flashy uber-slick, Euro-dominated Mayfair. Italian architect Rosella Stina has created a pared-down, boxy room in grey, beige and glass – there are Phillipe Starck chandeliers and chairs. Then, because in a place like this you want to be jolly sure you can observe the crowd, there is a mezzanine lounge in which you can sip cocktails, snack on crudités, and look down on the poor suckers eating too early. This is a lovely space, actually, with a rare-for-Mayfair retractable glass roof (hello, summer) and candles throwing a sexy light on the pale banquettes. It’s the sort of place I’d imagine attracting a Versace-clad crowd in Milan. Indeed that seemed to be the kind of crowd it was attracting here, too.

As we sipped our cocktails, we were served a delicious spread of proscuitto, melting, really stunning mozzarella and plump scallops on earthy, lovely rocket puree dusted with tomato powder. This heralded good things to come – the only problem, on sitting down, was that the menu’s biggest temptations repeated what we’d just had. I’m a fan of small menus but this one was too limited, so I had the scallops again and my friend had a repeat of the prosciutto and mozzarella. At £15 these are pricey starters but the portions are generous and the ingredients fine. We could have gone for tuna fillet with fennel, celery and oranges or a lovely fresh-sounding beetroot and apple salad, or indeed salmon on gazpacho. For the record.

For mains I had a Milanese classic: breaded, fried veal cutlet with tomatoes and rocket. It was silky and naughty tasting, like posh chips, with good meat inside. But it was small, served without any carbohydrate, and cost £17. Likewise my friend’s pasta (homemade parpadelle with beef ragu) was nice but small-ish and cost a bewildering £17. This is a pasta/risotto or carne/pesce type of place. Both would be ruinous. We finished off with a very good tiramisu and a transportative plate of Italian cheese.

Maybe it was the cheese plate wot did it, but when it came to checking out Luxx downstairs, we both felt a bit old and fat and lemon-mouthed. Or maybe it was having to push past glamorous Russian teenagers and expectant twenty-somethings dressed in dresses made out of materials I didn’t know made dresses. We weren’t allowed a table – these must be booked as they come with a whole minibar – so we made do with a bench that offered good views of our young European counterparts preening and prancing. On the club scene, Luxx is an exciting opening and is attracting the kind of crowds I gather clubs like this tend to attract. Boujis better watch out – not least because some really top DJs play here. The week we went, Calvin Harris had entertained.

For my part, though, I’ll stick with the art and scallops upstairs.