Home Estate Planning The London restaurant round-up: Bardo St James’, Cafe Kitty, and Ochre

The London restaurant round-up: Bardo St James’, Cafe Kitty, and Ochre

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Life is nothing without a good lunch, and London would never be the global city it is without its restaurants. Join City A.M. editor Andy Silvester on an occasional, irregular tour of the capital’s new, and rediscovered, openings.

Bardo St James’, St James’ 

In Tibetan Buddhism, Bardo is the state in between life and death, the mystical limbo between the worlds of the ambulant and the six-feet-under.

In Italian, apparently, it just means absurdly good pasta, which is exactly what you’ll receive at Bardo St James, just off Trafalgar Square. 

All subterranean reds and golds and long bars and velvet armchairs and sumptuous circular booths – with a live band – there’s more than a touch of bygone-era glam to the place, but head chef Graziana Bonacina’s menu is a happy blend of the modern and the classic, big Italian flavours tempered with a touch of class. 

The stars of the show – other than the trio of musicians lifted direct from the never-made Goodfellas 4 – are the pastas, as should be the case in any good Italian trattoria, no matter how drama’d up the setting. Two of us space four over the course of two hours; a spectacular ravioli cacio e pepe, a lobster tagliatelle more generous than expected on the shellfish, a meaty and craving-sating beef ragu and a spaghetti, pistachio and basil pesto affair, elevated to the memorable with fresh tomatoes and ricotta.

Each is very, very, good, the sort of thing that had you stumbled upon in it in a Florentine alleyway or a Puglian village would result in fuzzy-focussed, smug instagram posts. This is some of the very best pasta I’ve ever had in London, and I… I eat a lot of pasta.

Support acts are excellent, too – scallops and nduja not necessarily the most innovative of pairings these days but nonetheless still a good match. We left the mains – though the pollo ripeno – roast chicken with sausages, effectively – looked a meat-lovers’ dream as it traveled past. 

This bit of town is a funny old affair – not quite clubland, not quite the tourist hellhole of Leicester Square, and dangerously proximate to the never-ending garishness of whatever is now in the spot left behind by the long-lost, seldom-missed Sports Cafe. Bardo, however, is a real touch of class. 

Bardo St James’, 4 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX

Cafe Kitty, Soho

A riddle. Where is everybody? My companion and I are sat over a life-affirming pork belly doughnut, a sort of aggressively indulgent fried bao bun, in the best table in the house in Kitty Fisher’s new gaff in the middle of Soho at 2:30pm on a Friday afternoon, and other than some ‘grammers spending more time than they need to photographing a salad. 

It’s not the food putting people off. Cafe Kitty – run by the people behind Kitty Fisher’s – is delightfully and unmistakably modern Soho: a combination of slightly-sanitised filth (see aforementioned doughnuts, an almost indecently delicious buffalo chicken snack/starter) and juice bars (a pear, beetroot and chicory salad) that just about hangs together. 

Nor is it the decor, or the location, just above Soho’s seedy old Walker’s Court. There is queue of 50 outside Supreme next door, so footfall’s clearly not an issue.

It remains a mystery. But all the best bits of Soho were just a bit mysterious. Go, go now. You’ll get a table. And for God’s sake have the doughnut.

Café Kitty, Underbelly Boulevard, 6 Walker’s Ct, London W1F 0BT

Ochre at the National Gallery

A gallery restaurant should set off plenty of alarm bells, but the new opening at the National Gallery just about pulls away from its competition elsewhere in the capital. Surrounded by ladies who lunch and let’s-meet-in-London married couples who aren’t necessarily married to each other, the people watching is almost as good as the food. It’s well-lit, it’s well-staffed, the cheeseburger is excellent and the day boat fish is fresh and well-cooked. It’s not spectacular, but it works, and the whole place screams ‘naughty afternoon tea’. 

Ochre, National Gallery, Trafalgar Sq, London WC2N 5DN

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