What can you tell us about Hai Cenato?
It's the latest from London's hardest working restaurateur, Jason Atherton. This time he's moved onto Italian cooking - so expect pasta, pizza, grilled dishes and more. It's a mid-range joint - so prices are more along the line of Social Eating House than Pollen Street Social.
Where is it?
Hai Cenato is one of the many restaurants launching in Victoria's big new Nova development. As with most of the other restaurants opening there, it's trying something different from the rest, so there's now a really great choice down there.
Where should we meet for a drink first (or afterward)?
There's always the huge new pub The Greenwood around the corner, but that's already getting very busy. For something quieter, try Timmy Green for a glass of wine - and there's a branch of Vagabond Wines opening soon. Or you could go much more upmarket and head over to The Goring for a really decent cocktail.
Or the upstairs bar at Hai Cenato, of course?
Absolutely. Like Jason Atherton's other spots, there's a big space for the bar. This time it's the Drunken Oyster which takes up the upstairs space. It's definitely worth heading up here for a drink, and we've already used it as a good meeting point in the area a few times. They do a great Old Fashioned, too.
So, where should we sit?
Normally, we'd say aim for the counter dining seats - but this time they're a wee bit too tall and can lead to "hanging leg syndrome". So until that's addressed, we'd say head to one of the seats by the window.
And what should we order?
The menu itself is split into a few different sections - so there are small plates, pizza (bianca and rosso), pasta and risotto and grill and sharing plates too. We roamed through each of the sections and here's what we learned:
The pizzas are very good indeed, and offer flavours you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere. So definitely get something from this section - we plumped for the "Homemade fennel sausage, prosciutto, stracciatella, marjoram gremolata" and can highly recommend.
Ditto for the pasta. The one to go for - clearly - is the "Corzetti, aged beef Bolognese, tomato, sage burnt butter, Berkswell". It just SOUNDS great on the menu and we can put it up there with some of the best we've had. If only our own bolognese tasted this good.
And from the sharing plates - the one to go for must be the "Black treacle cured pork knuckle, San Marzano tomato & white bean ribollita" - £32 to share. This was MUCH bigger than we were expecting and is easily enough for three to share, we think (particularly if you're having pizza or pasta). Honestly, it's VERY big - be prepared for that. Not that that's a bad thing, of course - It's a very fine dish - but maybe more suited for winter/autumn - so this may change on the menu as we hit summer.
And finally - make sure to have the "Cracked potato, garlic aioli, rosemary sea salt (£5)" These are now high up the list of or favourite spud sides in town (and it's a pretty extensive list). Crunchy crushed potatoes and a deeply moreish aioli make this unmissable.
A bit of advice on the above - if you're planning to order both a sharing dish and either pasta or pizza, be sure to ask them to bring them separately. Learn from our mistake.
And how about dessert?
If you have left room - the "Warm brioche, salted caramel gelato sandwich (£6.50)" is certainly a showstopper, but we've heard great things about the cones of gelato (£3.50) and upon reflection, we really should have gone for this (we DID eat a lot). The salted caramel one is recommended, but "Sour rhubarb and almond" sounds ace too.
And you can take away?
There are sandwiches during the day and pizzas can be picked up at lunchtime too. And if you do slightly over-order, get them to put any extra pizza in a box. You'll be glad you did later.
How about drinks?
There's the cocktail list obviously - you can order these downstairs too - while wines start at £19.50 a bottle, with a fair chunk of them (around 20) under the £35 mark.
Hai Cenato is different from Jason Atherton's other places - it's aimed at a more casual crowd and it's probably the most affordable out of all of them. But that doesn't mean that the trademark Atherton quality isn't there. He's mastered another cuisine and this will be one of the top places to eat out in Victoria for some time.
What: Hai Cenato
Where: Nova, Sir Simon Milton Square, London, SW1E 5DJ