Brunello, Baglioni Hotel - London
60 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5BB
+44 (0)207 3685700
Review by: Emily Stead
The first plus point about Brunello is its superb location – a stone’s throw from Kensington Gardens, making it an unrivalled spot for people watching. Situated on the ground floor of the Baglioni hotel, Brunello serves classy Italian food to a mix of tourists, moneyed locals and west-London-based footballers (don’t let the latter put you off, though).
In stark contrast to most minimal British boutique hotels, the dining lounge here is full of Italian swagger. Dark wood floors, Murano black glass chandeliers and gold accents give the room a seductive feel. We take our seats in plush velvet armchairs, a little giddy in our glamorous surroundings.
Brunello is unashamedly patriotic in its choice of wines, and quite rightly so in our experience. Around 500 Italian wines are listed, with a strong selection of high-end bottles, as you’d expect given the postcode. With a whole page dedicated to Prosecco, an aperitif was a given (there are also four Champagnes from two houses if you absolutely insist). Wines by the glass are not listed, though we were offered an excellent white in the form of a Gavi di Gavi from the Piedmont region. Robust enough for our mains of tuna and beef, it paired well with our wallet too.
Staff are friendly and attentive, and knowledgeable about the provenance of the dishes on chef Andrea Vercelli’s menu of modern Italian dishes. We started with a fresh-tasting plate of grilled squid and earthy Jerusalem artichokes and another of marinated wild mushrooms with Roman broccoli. Both dishes are ringing endorsements of Vercelli’s policy of sourcing ingredients direct from Italy for maximum authenticity – flavours from the Med were unmistakeable here.
To do the menu justice, we should really have sampled the antipasti-primi-secondi-dessert combination on offer. Delicious as they sounded, we skipped the pastas, however, saving our appetites for the mains. A tuna steak was delicately seared and served with mashed aubergine, avocado and salmoriglio sauce – a compelling mix of Neapolitan ingredients that worked well in terms of flavour. From our own fields, Scottish fillet of beef with fondant potatoes and morels was melt in the mouth and complemented by a rich, meaty sauce.
The dolci will score highly among chocolate-lovers with several indulgent desserts from which to choose. One of these was the Setteveli, which was unveiled as seven different layers of chocolate decadence. Approval was demonstrated through much licking of lips and plate-scraping. Better still was a deconstructed Tiramisu, alongside which came coffee granita and vanilla ice cream. A guaranteed pick-me-up, chef Andrea Vercelli’s reinvention of the classic dessert with its deliquescing interior is possibly not ‘like Nonna used to make’.
We ended the evening in true Italian style with some perfect, bitter espresso (note: espresso-drinking is practically an art form here with an Illy machine installed in every hotel room) before heading off into the night, tingling more than ever so slightly.
In summary, fine Italian dining in equally fine surroundings – an irresistible combination that already has me planning my next trip to the capital.