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Friday, 4 February 2011

London Restaurant Reviews – Tempo (Updated on 9th March 2011)


I’ve always felt Japanese and Italian cooking had much in common – seasonality, top quality regional ingredients, and relatively uncomplicated cooking methods are just a few aspects that are at the heart of both cuisines.

Yoshi Yamada is living proof of this. An economics graduate, he worked for L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Japan, and moving to Italy, cooked in various establishments in Florence, Sorrento and Naples. After a stint as a sous-chef at the late Corbin and King’s St Alban, Yoshi Yamada joined Tempo to head its busy kitchen.

Opened last summer, Tempo is the new venture by former Hotelier Henry Tonga whom Greedy Diva and I had the pleasure of meeting on our visit. He explained that after the lease of his Townhouse Hotel “22 Jermyn Street” ended in 2009, Henry decided that opening a restaurant would be a more interesting proposition than retiring. He spoke to us with such ease, charm and genuine interest that having chatted to him for a few minutes, we could both see why.

The restaurant’s dining area on the ground floor is intimate and elegantly furnished with turquoise velvet upholstered chairs, glass topped tables, mirrors and art work. Upstairs, a stunning cocktail bar was sympathetically refurbished, bringing some of its ornate original Georgian features back to their full glory.

The menu is well thought out and in my opinion quite reasonably priced including a myriad of interesting dishes such as Venetian cicchetti (small canapés) @ £2.25 - £3.75, antipasti @ £6.50 - £12.75, pasta and risotto choices @ £9 - £20.50 and main courses of fish and meats @ £15 - £19.75.

We started by ordering their entire cicchetti menu - there were six of them. I love small eats but have to admit to feeling that these were the weakest course of our meal.  Beautifully made, the three crostini on our plate were topped with some lovely ingredients (Umbrian lentils and pancetta, shrimps and cavolo nero, and Calabrian pork sausages) but at £2.50 per crostino, I thought they were overpriced. The bruschetta di peperoni @ £3 had some juicy pieces of roasted peppers over a layer of “burrata pugliese”, a delicious cheese made of mozzarella and cream which was delectable.

The mini arancino of wild mushrooms and mozzarella was uninspiring and like the crostini a tad pricey @ £3.50. A much more exciting option was the “Insalata di Polpo” @ £3.75, by far the best cicchetti, it had a plump piece of seared octopus, flat leaf parsley, sliced apples and pomegranate seeds.

For antipasti, the “Fritto di Calamare & Bianchetti” (deep-fried squid and whitebait) @ £8 was deliciously crisp and as good as the ones I remember having in Italy. Our second choice, “Carpaccio di Manzo” @ £8.75, was also excellent – paper thin slivers of ultra fresh Scottish beef were topped with toasted hazelnuts, rocket and parmesan cheese.

Working through Tempo’s menu, the pasta dishes were the next on our hit list. The “Pappardelle” @ £8.25 with wild boar ragu, chestnuts, and parmesan had to be ordered. It was a sensational dish, rich and utterly delicious. It can also be ordered as a main course @ £12.50 and I cannot wait to return to Tempo to do so.

Greedy Diva’s choice of “Tagliolini” @ £10.75 with Cornish crab, dill and lime was also an excellent choice. A lighter option, the crab tasted very fresh and was enhanced by the zesty limes and dill.

The fish vs meat theme of our dinner continued with Greedy Diva’s ordering a “Stufato di Pesce” @ £17.50 a delicious Mediterranean fish stew while I opted for the “Brasato di Maiale” a chunky piece of roasted pork belly served with olive mash @ £18.

I adore pork belly and thoroughly enjoyed Tempo’s, but the fish stew was by far the nicest option. The stew had a rich and delicious tomato base, with pieces of monkfish, prawns and clams. It was similar in concept to a Bouillabaisse (French Provencal fish stew) and served with a chunky piece of bread.

Dolci (Desserts) were a tough choice. I opted for a “Frangipane” @ £6.50. This was a delicious pear and almond tart served with Amaretto ice cream which made for a deliciously light and nutty dessert.

Our second option was the “Dark Chocolate Fondant” @ £6.75, served with vanilla ice cream which was also very good. Our waitress insisted that we should also try their signature dessert, the “Lemon Tart” @ £6.25. This was without a doubt the best of the three – it was very creamy like a crème brulée with a hint of citrus fruit in a fine crumbly pastry base.

The wine list is impressive and as expected primarily Italian with some European and New World choices also making an appearance. There are a few bottles below the £20 mark, and many other excellent choices just above this price range. The very reasonable mark-up on their wines is commendable for a restaurant in the heart of Mayfair.

Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Tempo. I estimate that a three course meal would cost around £35 excluding drinks which I believe to be very good value for food of this quality and the high-heeled location.

Likes: the stars of the evening were the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, chestnuts and parmesan (£8.25), the fish stew (£17.50) and the lemon tart (£6.25) or £32 for the three courses which is fantastic value. Attentive service and comprehensive and well priced wine list. Elegant cocktail bar upstairs opened also to non-diners.

Dislikes: the cicchetti are overpriced. Larger portions should be served at the current prices.

Verdict: Tempo is an excellent Italian restaurant in elegant surroundings serving top quality Italian food at reasonable prices. What else could I ask? My place of choice for Italian food in London. I cannot wait to return. Very highly recommended.

Tempo Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. What a lovely meal we had. Hmmm - reading this is making me hungry to return. Thanks for being such a great dinner companion!

  2. I remember the crab and lime tagliolini was seriously good. Good to hear the menu is still doing well, HF

  3. Hello Luiz-san, i love your posts. I am Japanese - love Japanese and Italian food.... My Japanese friends are talking about this restaurant but myself never been. Will try sometime soon!

  4. Love the picture... ahem, I mean the pictures. Especially that of the wild boar ragu. Funny that I just come across two wild boar ragu dishes within two minutes (over at HungryinLondon's review of Cafe Amisha).

  5. You are right about the shared values of Italian and Japanese cuisines. What really fascinates me is how those similar values end up with wildly different outcomes. Equally delicious though.

    The food here does look good, particularly the ragu. I've come fairly late to the discovery that Italians do wonderful things with game and seafood. These days, they tend to be my go-to option when ever I eat in Italian restaurants.

  6. Looks good, but the desserts... rip off prices!!! I sell similar portion size at the Hampstead community market for only 2.50 a slice.
    And lemme tell you: when i do a Pear Amandine, first, the pears will be slightly pan roasted with butter, sugar, vanilla and rum, a wonderful extra burst of flavors these kind of tarts served in restaurants, no matter how almondy they are, will not taste as wonderful as something crafted with love!
    I see the pears have not even been sliced to make the tart prettier... Could do better on the tart front, and that is just by looking at the picture.

  7. What stunning snaps! Must check this place out when I get paid :-)

  8. Hi. So good to be reading your blog again - I've been absent for a while, and am trying to catch up. Every dish you extol is a favourite of mine, so I must try them for myself. Mayfair seems to lack decent restaurants: what a great find.

  9. Had a meal upstairs in the bar.. Superb food. The Chilli Gnocchi was great! as were the mojitos and of course that lemon tart!


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