Everything you see, I owe to Spaghetti
Iconic San Lorenzo has unquestionably been one of London’s top A-list haunts for many years. Shortly after its opening in 1963 by Lorenzo and Mara Berni, Sophia Loren, in the UK while filming The Countess of Hong Kong, visited the then tiny basement restaurant on Beauchamp Place in affluent Knightsbridge, no doubt desirous of some home-made pasta, which, so she always maintained, was the reason for her sexy curves, and its reputation was made. Later it was a regular home from home for Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales to be, who had a close ‘confessor’ friendship with Mara. Over the years, many other famous names from The Rolling Stones to Hugh Grant have also been regulars. So this place certainly has some pedigree!
As a teenager, living just around the corner, power dressed with pie crust collars and huge shoulder pads, my hair long and fashionably Farah Fawcett Major flicked, I remember well going here with my mother way back in the late seventies and early eighties. To be honest, I never went a bundle on the food but the atmosphere was electrifying. Mara Berni was a restaurateur par excellence who made it her business to befriend all the regulars, so a warm welcome was always assured. She made everyone feel special and rather privileged to be part of the inner crowd in her light and airy conservatory style restaurant. She died in 2012 and with her went much of the buzzy energy of this establishment, although, to this day, it is still run by her family.
Recently, having undergone complete refurbishment and decades on from my last visit, two girlfriends and I, meanwhile sans shoulder pads and big hair, went to check it out for a girly weekday lunch. Gone are the paparazzi who used to hover on the narrow pavement outside and, these days, there’s a not unpleasant hush about the place. It’s still bright, fresh and light and rather prettily presented with some interesting decorative artwork on the walls. The tables are comfortably far apart and well laid out, the service attentive. The menu, a combination of Tuscan, Piedmontese and Roman influences, remains fairly unchanged, with just a few updated tweaks to it.
Over the recent Christmas period, the three of us had had a couple of very social weeks which involved rather too much eating, so we all went for a light lunch. The blonde stylist had had a hell of a day, so she started off with a hugely expensive Bloody Mary at £12, followed by a super light Insalata Creola, a mix of spinach, avocado and crispy bacon with a vinaigrette dressing which you can’t really go wrong with. The brunette girl about town chose a Spigola Griglia, grilled sea bass with three asparagus spears and a dollop of steamed spinach, which she enjoyed with a glass of white wine, although she felt that the asparagus spears should have had more of the hard bottom part of the stalk removed. Both my Tuna Tartare and a side order of Zucchini Fritti, were tasty and perfectly fine but the zucchini might have been a tad crispier and less floppy to be really exciting.
All in all, the food was well prepared and definitely most palatable but far from exceptional. I can say the same about the ambience. Enjoyably calm, civilised and very nice but nothing spectacular. Then again, it was only a day or two after the reopening, so things may change once the restaurant is back into the swing of things.
After the Bloody Mary, which didn’t taste as it should have, was knocked off the bill without any quibbling at all, the bill for the three of us came to £87.19 including a glass of Frascati, three coffees and service charge. At almost £30 a head for a very light one course lunch, this is expensive even by Knightsbridge standards. To soften the blow, we were each given a large, beautifully wrapped panettone as we left, a very kind and generous gesture which delighted us all but which, of course, won’t be a regular treat.
Here’s the thing, over the last couple of decades the demographics of Knightsbridge have substantially changed. Once the stronghold of the Sloane Ranger, it is has now become an area of pied-à-terres, where Harrods is the corner shop, flashy Ferraris abound and one high octane designer shop vies with the next. Whether this little Osteria with the giant reputation, mildly jazzed up as it now is but lacking the trendiness factor, can still cut the mustard with this far more transient crowd remains to be seen.
San Lorenzo has further outlets in Wimbledon and at the Taj Land’s End in Mumbai.
22 Beauchamp Place, London SW3 1RE
Tel.: 020 7584 1074 www.sanlorenzo.com
What I wore
My faithful favourite old dark denim Zu Elements skinny jeans, bought in Ventimiglia, Italy, with a sky blue/black reversible Hermes belt, a pale blue Tommy Hilfiger shirt and a navy cashmere cardigan with Hermes Etoupe Birkin bag handprinted to order by UK artiste Boyarde Messenger (www.Boyarde.com), and flat black boots bought in Baku.
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Kia aka Fizz of Life