It’s a myth that young people have all the fun. Ever seen your grandad drunk at Christmas? Or your great-aunt attempting to line dance to Michael Bublé? Or even better, your mum hysterically giggling over a Poldark meme after her third glass of wine? It doesn’t matter how wise, or sensible, or grown-up you are, you still deserve to have a good laugh. Which brings us on to Emilia, a sophisticated spot in Mayfair that serves excellent, rich Italian food but little in the way of fun.
The menu here is all thin-sliced prosciutto, courgette fritti, handmade pastas, and the kind of fish that’s so tasty it’ll stop a conversation quicker than Big Mouth Billy Bass serenading you from your plate. There’s no denying that the food is impressive. Every rich bite of ricotta is balanced out with the perfect amount of crunchy walnut, and their minty take on a zabaglione turns a decent piece of lamb into the best you’ve ever had. None of it is cheap, especially once your wing man, the sommelier, gets involved. But, almost every dish is impressive to the point where going for a full four-course situation is pretty irresistible from the second you sit down.
Where you choose to sit is up to you. The restaurant is set inside Bonhams’ flagship London auction house, which is handy if you’re in the market for a squid minestrone and a 1920s motor carriage originally owned by King Edward VIII. The dining room upstairs is bright and spacious, and was clearly designed by someone who only had a white tablecloth for inspiration and appreciates the support of a high-backed chair. Sure, it’s sparse, but think of it as a blank canvas - feel free to get a bit Rothko with the lemon mayonnaise if you’re desperate for colour. The food here should be your main focus. Downstairs in their small, corridor of a wine bar things are a bit more informal with industrial stools and slick marble tables that are date-night ready as soon as you add a candle and glass of 2014 Châteauneuf-du-Pape into the mix. Then there’s the outdoor terrace, a set of simple tables with sleek metal chairs. It’s about as practical as an expensive pair of leather flip-flops in London weather. That said, a sunny day out on that terrace with a bottle of white wine and their tuna carpaccio, is undeniably lovely.
Whether you’re inside or out though, the problem with Emilia remains. It is lovely, but in the way that cross-stitch might be if watching Saturday Night Live in your underwear, or flinging banter at someone you fancy wasn’t ever an option again. It’s serious and can get seriously expensive, which makes it hard to use. You could come here for lunch when you’re in the market for a new sculpture and your art dealer’s a sucker for burrata. Or when your godmother, the librarian, is visiting and you want them to feel at home. Or when your millions are cluttering up your bank account and you want to show that person you’re dating that you can afford a two-hundred quid bottle of Riesling. If none of those apply to you, well, then come to Emilia for the food. Just be sure to bring your own fun.
Yes, the courgette fritti is very nice and all, but what we really want to know is how they somehow managed to capture actual sunshine, pump it full of lemon, and feed it to us. We’re impressed.
A tasty little number that is a must-order in its own right but also an important excuse to eat even more of Emilia’s excellent complimentary focaccia.
We’ll be honest. Sometimes when we’re out and about we say things like “this is one of the best things we’ve had all year” - and then promptly forget about it by the time we’re back at the office. We said that about this and it’s stood the test of time. If it’s on the menu, order it.
This primi arguably sounds like the shittest rap group ever assembled but you shouldn’t underestimate it. This is one of the best risottos we’ve ever had. Ever.
A lot of London restaurants can make a mean plate of handmade pasta. But there aren’t many London restaurants that can make a fresh tuna carpaccio like this one.
Think of your classic spag bol as sitting in an old cab in traffic. And now, think of this pappardelle and venison ragu as driving down the coastline with the top down, wind in your hair, and blasting Living On A Prayer. It’s an instant upgrade and an instant classic.
Much like dramatic haircuts, switching internet providers, and complimenting your partner in the middle of an argument - putting light guineafowl in a rich bone broth is a risk. This one doesn’t quite pay off. The brodo is a bit too intense to be able to taste the girolles and it gets old quick.
This lamb is our favourite thing to come out of Yorkshire since Patrick Stewart. Then their minty take on this classic Italian dessert is one of the sexiest minty sauces we’ve had. It’s £32 and worth every penny.