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Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Where: 22 Woodstock Street, Mayfair, London W1C 2AR
Cost: Starters are priced from £8.50 to £15.00, with pasta dishes from £14.00 to £27.00, mains from £19.50 to £36, and side dishes at £4.50. Two or three course set lunch menus are £22 or £25 (Mon to Fri, 12 - 3pm). These change weekly, and include vegetarian options. Cocktails range from £8.50 to £11.50.
About: Opened in September 2014, this Italian restaurant headed by the Neapolitan chef Ivan Simeoli, previously of Club Gascon and The Wallace, is tucked away at the end of a tiny enclave off Oxford Street that could easily be missed.
Gigi's is an elegant spot, on which it seems no money has been spared, with classic parquet floors, plush green velvet seating, chandeliers and a magnificent cocktail bar.
I could not fail to notice that on the evening we were there, all the waiting staff were Russian. On further investigation, it turns out that the restaurant is Russian owned, which might explain the staffing, and the huge sums that appear to have been spent on the decor. It also claims to have served the world's most expensive cocktail at £9000 a pop.
What We Ate: It is rare in a restaurant for me to find that I want to order many items from the menu, but this was an issue at Gigi's, and choosing was difficult. After much deliberation, we decided to start our meal with the roasted octopus with borlotti beans and flamed onion broth (£11.50). I love the combination of seafood and beans, and here the octopus was excellent, with a deliciously char-grilled flavour and sweetness from the onions, and surprisingly was even more tender than the accompanying beans.
The vitello carpaccio tonnato (£13.50) is one of Italy's most popular regional specialties from Turin. Gigi's take on this Italian classic, dotted with leaves of radicchio and sorrel, was superb, with finely cut rare veal, and a light and creamy fresh tuna mayonnaise. Having enjoyed this dish on a number of occasions in Italy, I can safely state that Gigi's was the best I have eaten to date.
The ravioli with Amalfi lemon and buffalo ricotta (£14.00), from the pasta section, had a heady citrus aroma, and a rich buttery sauce. A refined, beautifully presented dish, it transported me straight back to my last visit to Sorrento (reviewed here).
The pappardelle Zafferano with ossobuco and sage butter (£19.50), had freshly made, paper thin pasta, nearly as wide as lasagne. Served with veal and bone-marrow, this was rich, sweet and full of flavour. The chef had substituted the more traditional risotto with freshly made pasta, which worked a treat.
The salt marsh English lamb, with heritage carrots, sheep's milk and crunchy shallots (£24) was in my opinion the star of the meal. Tender and full of flavour, and with a magnificent, highly concentrated jus, it was exquisite both to the eye and the palate.
The White Park rib eye beef was served medium rare, with turnip tops and mustard (£36). Richly flavoured and well presented, this was also very good, although compared with the lamb, it did not fare so well in flavour or value for money.
For dessert, we opted for the Ivan Simeoli's interpretation of tiramisu (£7.50). A delectable deconstruction of an overfamiliar classic, this featured chocolate tuile, coffee meringue and a coffee parfait.
The liquorice sandwich with apple bubbles (£7.50) was very fine, with an intensely flavoured and aromatic apple foam, and a well made hazelnut parfait.
What We Drank: We kicked off with a Silver-tini cocktail - a refreshing concoction of lychees, gin, elderflower cordial, lime and pink champagne (£11.50). Equally good was the Rose Petal Martini, gin-based (Hendricks), but flavoured with rose and voilet liqueurs and lychee puree (£10.50).
With the main course, we had a glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (£7.50 per glass), which was not a great match for the quality of the cooking.
Likes: The salt marsh English lamb was excellent, as was the vitello carpaccio tonnato, and both pasta dishes. Desserts were innovative and skillfully presented. Cocktails were strong and well made. The food menu is in the main well priced for the location.
Verdict: There is some first rate cooking at Gigi's - Ivan Simeoli is a creative and talented chef using fantastic Italian produce to reinvent some of his country's classics. It's early days for Gigi's, and while it tries to find its feet on the London culinary scene, there is some serious cooking at surprisingly reasonable prices to be had. Highly recommended.