Test Drives

Test driving stylish Italian MassimoWhat is Massimo?
It’s a new London Italian restaurant run by Massimo Riccoli, who also runs the fish-only Rosetta in Rome.

Where is it?
Just near Embankment tube – inside the new Corinthia Hotel, another of the surprisingly numerous five star hotels to open in London in the past few months.  The Corinthia itself looks every bit the star, with plenty of staff just waiting to cater to your every whim.  We also particularly liked the small courtyard with two open fires at every end – something they’re considering having as an unofficial cigar smoking area.

Who's it suitable for?
Situated a stone’s throw from Whitehall, this is a great place to do business with MPs or civil servants (as long as they’re not footing the bill).  We’d  also recommend it for anyone looking for some serious Italian food – possibly to impress clients or family.  However, the bar menu – both food and cocktails – should earmark this as a perfect after-work haunt for anyone working in the area.  We also noticed a particularly high number of Italian diners – apparently Fabio Capello has been raving about the place to anyone who’ll listen.

Where should I meet my fellow diners for a pre-dinner drink?
If you want to meet near Embankment, then there’s always the classic Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villers street.  If you’re meeting at the hotel, Hot Dinners did try out the other bar in the Corinthia, Bassoon, but we think the bar in the Massimo itself is a perfect meeting point.  More of that in a moment.

What should I expect when I walk in the front door?
Massimo is the second David Collins designed interior to open in a matter of weeks and, like the Gilbert Scott, the design is a thing of wonder.  First off, you’ll see the beautiful mosaic floor by the bar before staring at the astonishing glass globed lights that make up the centrepiece of the restaurant.  It’s an astonishing piece of work and Hot Dinners felt like we were in a particularly stylish episode of Mad Men as we sipped our cocktails at the bar.

Where should we sit?
Grab a space at the bar for starters and ideally sit somewhere right at the back of the restaurant facing inwards so that you can gawp at the building.

What would you recommend ordering?
To really give the menu at Massimo a proper workout, grab a seat at the bar and consider having your starter here.  You can choose from a variety of oysters and a particularly inventive bar food list.  After half a dozen oysters, we couldn’t resist the idea of frozen spaghettini with bottarga and raw prawns - that’s our best bar dish of the year so far, hands-down.

From the main restaurant – highlights were the diver scallops with fried leeks and broccoli for starters (yes, we had a second starter – we couldn’t help ourselves) and a fantastic crab risotto for mains.  A standout pasta dish was the leek ravioli in a cured pork cheek tomato and pecorino sauce – the pasta in particular showing off the chef’s prowess (Ricolli himself was in attendance, working the room).

But the favourite by far was the “Vecchio Samperi” marsala zabaione with soft savoiardo biscuit that we had for dessert - a melding of alcohol and sugar that left us beaming with happiness.

We’d also like to specifically mention the cocktails that rounded off the evening.  The espresso martini was excellent (although happily wouldn’t keep us up all night being decaf as requested).  However, the sidecar was a revelation - heavenly, much too moreish to be safe and it didn’t help that the bar staff are incredibly friendly. We had that second cocktail just to please them really.

Is bread included?
It is indeed – along with salted butter.

What's the cheapest wine I could get away with?
For whites, it'll be the Vino Bianco, Ottavio Rube, Piedmont (Italy) at £25 or the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Santa Barbara, Marche (Italy) also at £25. For reds the Dolcetto, Ottavio Rube, Piedmont (Italy) at £26.

And how about the cheapest main?
You can get the Beetroot Gnocchi with tomatoes, aubergines and salted ricotta for £12 – or the aforementioned ravioli for £14

If, on the other hand, I’ve just had my annual bonus and am looking to push the boat out...
Start with the seafood platter for two for £66 with a couple of shots of Kaufmann vodka at £25 each and have the lobster with courgettes and ginger sauce for £38. Return to the bar afterwards for a snifter of Remy Martin Louis XIII at £195 a glass. 

Anything for vegetarians?
Yes – there are a few vegetarian options, like a courgette and burratta cheese tart for starters and the above Gnocchi.  However, the menu is predominantly seafood based, particularly in the non-pasta section.

Overall thoughts?
With barely any competition in this part of town, Massimo should do well anyway, but we urge you to make the trip here even if you’re not an MP (or sleeping with one).  Not only is it a startlingly beautiful place to eat in, it’s a new and great addition to London’s Italian repertoire. Riccoli’s menu is exciting enough to warrant multiple trips and the bar snacks are some of the best in town. Who could want for more?

Find out more about Massimo

Prices are correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners was invited to eat at Massimo.

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