Augusta Riddy heads to Theo Randall, InterContinental's new Italian restaurant and finds the pasta 'all-round outstanding'
The strange cubist building standing alone at the corner of Hyde Park has always intrigued me. Of course, when I do walk into the InterContinental Park Lane, I find it much like any other international hotel group five star establishment. Entering the Theo Randall restaurant within it, you take one further step into airport-like anonymity.
Despite the lack of natural light, and beyond that the restaurant is made deliberately moody by very low lighting, the bar is charmingly intimate with simple yet sophisticated decor. The helpful barman recommends a deliciously dry prosecco, which I am delighted to find is a 2016 Millesimato by Villa Sandi, a winery I had the pleasure of visiting last year.
Our table is generously spaced and the restaurant is far from full. The sight of a man at the next table watching English Football League on his phone confirms the sense that this is a hotel establishment. It has been a blistering day in London – my companion who was previously concerned about wearing flip-flops is no longer phased.
The waitress brings us some bruschetta which is exquisite – we drink a dry but sweet Vette di San Leonardo sauvignon blanc – and I begin with the yellowfin tuna tartare; the combination of rich olive oil with sharp capers and amalfi lemons is delightful. My companion is served salumi misti of the highest standard.
The pasta is all-round outstanding, and we are introduced to a 2016 Paolo Petrilli 'Motta Del Lupo' by our enthusiastic sommelier: a light but characterful combination of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grape which is so drinkable you would not believe. My pea and salami fettucine is simple, but when combined with melted parmesan throughout it becomes wonderfully rich. My companion’s linguine and Dorset blue lobster avoids over-flavouring, and the quality of the fish comes through.
Even when in Italy, I often find Secondi disappointing, and this evening is no different. My calves liver has plenty of flavour, but the big slab is overwhelming. Similarly, my companion’s veal chop is pleasant but huge and slightly watery. The desert selection includes a sensational tarte citron, but for me the highlight is the peach sorbet, which is just so darned peachy.
Occasionally the wine arrives a little after the corresponding course – perhaps they underestimate our drinking speed – but apart from that the service is impeccable and friendly. The sweet staff don’t even flinch when we ask to finish with limoncello, producing it in shot glasses thrillingly made of ice. We emerge from the hotel blinking at the summer light, satisfied and full.
Augusta Riddy writes for the New Statesman