Name: Diciannove Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel, 19 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 6DB,
Cost: We were there to try the Alba white truffle special menu. Dishes ranged from £25 to £38 with a 4-course meal costing £100 per person (excl. drinks).
About: Readers of this blog will perhaps recall my interest in the truffles of Alba, having visited the truffle auction and international fair in Piedmont recently (reviewed here). So my interest was piqued when I heard of Diciannove’s Alba white truffle menu available in London.
Situated on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a stone's throw from Blackfriars Station, Diciannove is well located for those who have been exploring the sites of the City of London, but during the week, diners are largely business travellers staying at the hotel.
Perhaps due to its location, Diciannove has a generic, corporate feel about it, with a 1990s-type décor which put me in mind of a Weatherspoons in Heathrow Terminal 2. There are red neon signs in the window, grey wall tiles, a lemon yellow bar serving Peroni beer on tap, and seating made from stripy orange, purple and green fabric. It felt bright but soulless.
We attended on a Saturday early evening when the restaurant was around 20% occupied and sadly lacking in atmosphere. Despite this, we were shown to the worst possible table at a dimly lit corner of the restaurant by a fire exit. We asked whether we could be moved to one of the many other vacant tables, and to our embarrassment this seemed to cause consternation requiring the manager to be called! This was not how I envisaged the start of my meal.
What We Ate: Finally sat at one of many available window tables, we tucked into our first starter – beef carpaccio with baby rocket leaves, Parmesan cheese, truffle dressing and white truffle shavings (£25). Made with fillet steak, the beef tasted fresh and of good quality, but was let down by a dire lack of seasoning. I was pleasantly surprised by the generous shavings of white truffle, although like the beef, these had very little if any flavour.
The fresh tagliatelle pasta with Taleggio cheese cream and white truffle (£28) was well cooked with a good bite, and the Taleggio cream sauce was silken and delicious. But continuing a theme, the plentiful truffle shavings again lacked any truffle flavour or aroma.
Better was the risotto with butter, Parmesan and white truffle (£30). Well made and creamy, simple dishes like this are the perfect match for truffles – and surprisingly this had a good concentration of truffle flavour and went some way to redeem a dinner that had not got off to the best of starts.
As a main course, we were served a beef fillet with mashed potatoes, veal jus and fresh white truffle (£38). Nicely seared, the beef was tender and delectably pink with great depth of flavour. I also loved the smooth and velvety mash it was served with, however, yet again we could hardly detect any truffle flavour in this dish.
For pudding, our waitress recommended the signature dessert of Diciannove - a tiramisu (£7). The Black Forest Gateaux of the 1990s, I’m still a sucker for a well made tiramisu, but sadly Diciannove’s was far from it. With cream that seemed to have come from an aerosol spray, over-sweetened, and with no detectable Marsala, it left a bad taste in the mouth at the end of a very disappointing meal.
What We Drank: The wines are exclusively Italian, and the entry-level white is a Trebbianno-Chardonnay blend from Romagna at £24 per bottle, while the red is a Nero d'Avola Legato 2015 from Sicily at £26.
Asked for a recommendation, the Manager suggested the bottle of house red. This was an every day drinking wine with red and black cherry notes, some spice and a touch of unbalanced acidity on the finish. It seemed out of keeping with the white truffle menu both in style and intensity, and in my opinion overpowered the little flavour the truffle shavings might have had.
Likes: The risotto was delicious.
Dislikes: With the exception of the risotto, the other dishes had little or no truffle flavour. For an Alba White Truffle menu, at £100 per person, I would expect more. That tiramisu was the nail in the coffin.
Verdict: With over-priced food in a lacklustre setting, and a truffle menu that did not taste of truffle, Diciannove was disappointing. Not recommended.