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Quirinale, Victoria SW1

Louise Elgin was our division belle!

Last night I retreated from the heat, bustle and grind of central London into the oasis of calm that is Quirinale. As soon as I walked down the staircase and into the air-conditioned restaurant I felt my mood change, it was like flicking a switch. Quirinale is a stone's throw (within range of the division bell) of  The Houses of Parliament and is named after Rome's Presidential Palace, which seemed appropriate. This is a serious Italian restaurant, no over-size pepper pots in this establishment, in fact, no salt or pepper grinders were on any of the tables, such was the confidence of the kitchen. The atmosphere is very intimate, with tables well spaced, allowing private conversations to remain so. The white, very light environment evoked a feeling of peace and calm, whilst the atmosphere was conducive to eating in an exclusive private dining club.

We were warmly welcomed, seated at a table that was simply but elegantly set , where we got down to the serious business of the menu. This was divided into four sections and suited the hot sunny weather; antipasti, pasta and risotto, fish and meat and vegetables. There were six antipasti to chose from with an added selection on the specials menu that changes daily. These included Beef carpaccio marinated in honey and grain mustard with broad beans and pecorino, £9.50, warm asparagus with poached egg and "bagoss" cheese, £8.50.

I started with the pea soup with pancetta and goat's cheese, £7.50. This was served beautifully, a delicious marriage of tastes, the goat's cheese and cured bacon mingling wonderfully with the dense pea flavour of the soup. My guest's starter was selected from the specials menu, octopus and potato salad, £9.50. It was served as a timbale, the colours very inviting and was the perfect size. She added that the flavours complemented each other with no taste overpowering the other. The presentation was very attractive, with tiny tomatoes and flecks of rocket decorating the miniature sandcastle, which was topped with chervil.

As we both wanted to drink different wines we chose by the glass. I had the Pinot Bianco Garda La Prendina, £4.25 per glass, (£15.00 a bottle). It was delicious, a blend of citrus fruit and balancing acidity, perfect for the weather. My guest was drinking red and selected a glass of Barbera D'Asti Vespa Cascina Castlet, £5.50 per glass, £21.00 a bottle. She said it was a medium bodied summery red, fruity and spicy. The wine list was very extensive, with 40 white wines, mostly Italian, ranging from £12.50 for a Grillo Kalura Cantina Birgi from Sicily at £12.50 per bottle, through to £92.00 for a bottle of Langhe Chardonnay Rossi-Bass Gaja, 2000. The average price on the list was around £25.00. There were 47 red wines, again averaging around the £25.00 mark and mainly from Italy, including Barolo Fontanafredda 1997/8, £43.00 a bottle, and the more affordable Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Villa Torre at £17.00 per bottle.

The pasta and risotto section looked very tempting and included home made tagliolini with fresh crab, fresh  tomato and chilli, £9.50 for a starter portion or £13.50 for a main course. Home made papparardelle with ragu of duck and broad beans, again priced as the above. With it being such a warm evening we were both thinking along the same lines and decided on fish. I chose baked fillet of sea bass with Ligurian potato and green bean salad and basil puree, £14.50. This was served rolled and stuffed, the fish's skin crispy, each mouthful having a delicate freshness with the subtle flavours mingling with an essence of fresh herbs. My guest's roasted wild salmon trout with caramelised shallots served with a sauce of asparagus and almonds, £14.00, was very summery and light, the roasted almonds perfectly complimenting the salmon. The plate was dotted with asparagus tips and red peppers with a smattering of basil puree.

Whilst we were savouring the last of the flavours we had eaten and pontificating over the idea of pudding, the waitress brought the most amazing selection of cheeses to our table at £9.50 per serving. There were a total of ten of perfect maturity, ranging in variety from goat's, cow's and sheep's milk. These oozed 'eat me' but I simply didn't have room. So sadly had to decline.

For pudding, all priced at £5.50, we could indulge in the adventurous sounding "Torta sbrisolona" (I never did find out what that was!) with black pepper ricotta, or lemon pudding with raspberry cream and passion fruit bavarese with a coconut tuille. My guest chose the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. It was served in a ramekin, with slices of strawberries and blueberries with a sprig of mint. She said it was more-ish comfort food and scoffed the lot! I staggered through a selection of sorbets served in a crisp tuille basket. These consisted of chocolate, passion fruit and cherry. The chocolate being my clear favourite with the passion fruit coming a close second. Alas the cherry was no match for its competitors.

As we made our way home we felt replete and at peace with the world. Quirinale, you've got the recipe right. Arrivederci!

Louise Elgin. July 2003

Quirinale
North Court, 1 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 3LL
Tel: 020 7222-7080

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010


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