N-N-N-N-Nineteen, Nineteen | Diciannove, 19 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 8DB
It’s funny how certain spaces give off certain vibes. As we entered the lobby via some revolving doors I was none the wiser. Even when I noticed one restaurant to our left and one to our right, I didn’t twig! It wasn’t until I visited the toilet half way through our meal that it finally clicked… This is a hotel and that was the vibe I must have sensed (the force is strong with this one – not!) Saff knew all along and blamed her tiredness on not sharing this fact with me.
Now we are usually a little sceptical of hotel eateries, although we have been very pleasantly surprised of late. But it just bears testament to the quality of Diciannove‘s food and the standard of service that I didn’t realise that we were in the Crowne Plaza Hotel until I literally walked into the reception desk.
Diciannove had only been open for six days, yet this modern Italian restaurant was running like clockwork. As with Refettorio, Diciannove’s previous incarnation, the kitchen is headed up by Alessandro Bay. He says: ‘The new name is the start of an exciting new move to bring you our enhanced concept of instinctive Italian dining. Diciannove continues to be directed by myself and the existing, experienced, culinary team. The essence of our food is classic, well-crafted cooking using bold, simple flavours and our passion remains to create memorable food that tastes vibrant and authentic.’
Decor is fairly standard, it’s not trying too hard to be too cool or edgy, they wouldn’t want to scare away the suits. But they have achieved a modern yet relaxed space that mirrors the concept of the food. Not too sure about the backlit yellow perspex on the bar though. Just as you enter the room is Deli 19, stocked with artisan breads, antipasti, sauces and an olive bar, complete with an old heavy duty meat slicer – nice touch. If you just fancy a cocktail and/or snack then you can simply walk in and prop yourself yourself up at their Cicchetti & Negroni Bar.
Our enthusiastic, knowledgable and chatty waiter (he’d only been in the UK for a few weeks) ran through their menu. He recommended either ordering six or so dishes of the Cicchetti, the Italian equivalent of tapas. Or, if we were a little more ‘greedy’ (we assume he meant hungry) a standard three-course meal would be more suitable. But first and foremost we ordered a cocktail, this time we ordered for each other – a silly game we play now and again. I ordered a Rhubarb Twisted Negroni £8.50 for Saff. And she ordered a Bitter Chocolate Orange £9.50 for me. We both guessed correctly, we know each other so well – quick pass the bucket! The cocktails were bursting with flavour and looked great too, Saff’s classic combo of gin, vermouth and Campari got the evening off to a perfect start. Whilst my mix of Campari, vodka, chocolate liqueur and orange juice was so very grown up.
The menu promises ‘classic Italian cooking with bold, simple flavours. Fresh, seasonal ingredients, regionally sourced for every dish. Freshly baked breads, delicious cicchetti to share’. Easily enough said but the proof will be in the pasta and that’s exactly what I ordered for starters. My Luganica Ravioli £9.50 (or £12.50 as a main) was incredible. The ground roast luganica sausage was dense and rich, the freshly made pasta was light with perfect bite. The whole dish was bathed in butter, so not one for calorie counters. The only slight criticism was that the portion size was fairly small, then again I was feeling quite ‘greedy’.
Saff opted for the Spider Crab Salad £4.25, a signature dish from the Cicchetti section. Fresh delicate flakes of crab meat served with ribbons of cured cucumber, mint, basil and a big wedge of lemon. A great little starter to kick-start your taste buds. Had Saff been able to eat cheese then we would possibly have shared one of the antipasti platters? La Grande £14, a big board of prosciutto tuscano, fennel salami, mortadella di Bologna, parmigiano reggiano, burrata mozzarella, salsa verde, grilled vegetables and homemade rosemary focaccia… Does anyone know of a cure for her cheese ‘phobia’, it is really getting out of hand.
The main course was a far simpler choice to make, either from the secondi or pasta sections. Saff went for her namesake – the Saffron pappardelle, cured pig cheeks, carmelised onions and aged pecorino £10.50. I loved how my ravioli starter was cooked, Saff found her pappardelle far too buttery. Our waiter had warned her it was cooked in ‘a little butter’, maybe a little is different in Italy? Also there wasn’t much evidence of the cured pig cheeks although the baby onions had an incredibly sweet crunch. The meat in my Pancetta di Maiale £17.50 was much more obvious. A huge slab of pork belly sat atop a bed of pea purée with a rasher of crisped pancetta and crushed fresh almonds. I could have ordered this dish again just to have more of that crackling! Saff had one mouthful and was hooked, maybe I should have done the decent thing and swapped.
Dessert, caused more of a dilemma. We didn’t know what to order, we wanted to sample everything. The Affogato £5.50 caught my eye as did the Amarena £7.50 (sour cherries served warm with ricotta and pistachio). After much debate I opted for a Delizia al Cioccolato £7, purely as I liked the sound of the chocolate salami! A coffee cup full to the brim with a ‘decadent’ chocolate mousse. As for the chocolate salami, they are sliced sausage-shaped discs of the richest chocolate. Maybe too rich! Saff, on the other hand loved it, especially the subtle crunch of the salami.
She had a similar problem when choosing her dessert. First she wanted the classic Tiramisu £7 but was persuaded by our waiter to order the Zabaione £6.50. He explained that the traditional Zabaione is what his mama used to serve his as a pick-me-up drink before school. Diciannove’s version was a little more refined – light, sweet custard served with a tangy lemon curd topping and sliced strawberries. Imagine a liquified lemon meringue and you’re not far wrong.
Our waiter saved the best till last, he offered us a glass of limoncello each. Served in a frozen glass this typical Italian lemon liqueur is the perfect way to end a meal. We had plans to make our own limoncello this year, especially after the success we had with last year’s batch of sloe gin. We never got round to it although, I doubt very much that our lemons would match up to those unusually large and fragrant fruit that are a speciality of Italy’s Amalfi coast.
The food we had at Diciannove was lovely. A calming ambience with great, passionate service and grown up drinks. We just hope customers actually know it’s there and learn to look past the hotel lobby.
19 New Bridge Street
London EC4V 6DB
Telephone: 020 7438 8052
Opening Times: Monday – Friday – 12pm – 10:30pm
Saturday – 6pm- 10pm
Nearest station: City Thameslink