T&C tests: Il Pampero, Belgravia

A sophisticated Italian bar and restaurant in one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods

If you didn’t know Il Pampero existed, you could easily miss it. Nestled in the basement of the Hari hotel on Belgravia’s tranquil Chesham Place, the venue has a hush about it that bespeaks elegance and exclusivity. This isn’t just another hotel restaurant: it’s a place for an intimate rendezvous, where you can dine in private, undisturbed by the outside world, your conversation accompanied only by the soothing sound of the jazz playlist. 

The interior, designed by Tara Bernerd, exudes Italian glamour: all tiled flooring, leather banquettes and dark walls lined with theatrical pictures and photographs. We start our evening with aperitivi at the central marble bar, which is stocked with an impressive array of liqueurs and spirits. It would be easy to while away several hours working through the cocktail menu, but the bartender’s blend of prosecco, amaretto and ginger is heady enough to whet my appetite for dinner.

Over at our table in the bay window, which is high enough for us to benefit from the last of the evening light but sufficiently low that we feel protected from the street noise, we select our starters from the menu of Italian classics. The sea bass carpaccio is excellent, with a citrus zing and a nice contrasting crunch from the sprinkling of pistachios; while the fritto di formaggio caprino, which turns out to be croquettes of smoked goat’s cheese, is a guilty pleasure, but served in such a large portion that it should rightly be called a sharing plate. Mains include hearty fare such as wild-boar casserole, Venetian-style calf liver and salted codfish, but we confine ourselves to primi piatti, sampling the oxtail ravioli – tender meat inside enormous parcels of fresh pasta – and the pumpkin gnocchi in a rich, creamy Taleggio sauce.

The restaurant is especially proud of its desserts, and for good reason: they’re a beautifully presented, imaginative take on traditional Italian dolci. The tiramisu is served affogato-style, with a miniature jug of hot espresso to pour over the iced centrepiece, while the Sacher di lamponi is a gloriously indulgent plate of rich chocolate cubes whose sweetness is offset by the tang of raspberries.

This is homely Mediterranean cooking elevated by some creative touches; a welcome addition to Belgravia’s sophisticated dining scene.

Il Pampero, 20 Chesham Place, London SW1

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