Harry’s Bar. Don’t you just love those two words? It instantly brings to my mind the bitter taste of a pomegranate-coloured Negroni, Harry’s style, in Venice. There really is nowhere else in the world where I would rather sip my favourite drink. So, imagine my excitement when I heard Harry’s Dolce Vita, had opened in London’s Knightsbridge. with an entire Negroni menu. And the food is pretty darn delizioso too!
January is such a desperately grey month in London, and as it was my daughter Eloise’s nineteenth birthday, we decided we needed a spoonful of Italian sun on a plate.
Harry’s Dolce Vita is perfectly placed behind Harrods in Knightsbridge, where the spiritless Café Rouge used to sit. It’s a small restaurant, long and quite narrow. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in design. Harry’s Dolce Vita is owned by Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, also owner J Sheekey, as well as The Ivy, Scott’s, et al. So, you won’t be surprised to hear the décor was elegant and expensive, with mirrored ceilings, russet-hued leather furniture and a long, sexy bar perfect for a tipple or two. And the tunes are seductive too, with plenty of Italian crooning going on – a perfect accompaniment to all the retro-glamorous photography.
A friend of mine had already warned me about the truffle arancini. Moreishly decadent, you cannot eat but one, and it would be easy to demolish the whole basket. We chose a light white wine as it was lunchtime, and the sommelier suggested the Bulgarini Lugana from Lombardy. It was fresh without being acidic, with hints of apricot and peach.
As it was Eloise’s birthday, I thought she should try something new, but she wasn’t having any of it. It had to be a faithful plate of crispy calamari for her, accompanied by a dollop of lemon and roasted garlic aioli. I opted for the gluten-free fiori di zucchine, the fried courgette flowers with courgetti, honey, lemon ricotta, mint and pine nuts. It was satisfactory but didn’t beat the tastiest courgette flowers this side of Tuscany from Salt Yard in Soho. My husband Mark had the tuna carpaccio, which was delicate and delicious.
Truffle junkie Eloise picked Harry’s taglioni, a pasta plate of truffle, parmesan and cream. It was sweet and soothing, and Eloise purred her way through the silky concoction. Mark quietly munched his way through the crab and scallop ravioli served with zucchini and a hint of caviar cream. The kitchen was happy to substitute the pasta dishes with a gluten-free option, so I instantly veered in the direction of Harry’s spaghetti seafood. It was Italian sea and summer on a plate, divine but a three-course size in itself. I recommend you pass on the starter, and head straight to the main dish with this one.
Note: Harry’s Dolce Vita has a menu dedicated to the not-so-humble Alba White Truffle from the Piedmont region. Each of the dishes is priced at £35.
Anais, who likes to go full-fat Italian whenever she can, had spaghetti pomodoro as a starter and Harry’s margherita pizza for her main. She rated it nearly as good as Franco Manca, which for her, means it’s excellent pizza. I couldn’t taste it as it wasn’t gluten-free but everyone else agreed the buffalo mozzarella was melt-in-the-mouth good, and the dough had just the right tanginess and crunch.
Forget the tiramisu. This baby is gold dust, literally. The Gianduia Sundae is like eating a Ferrero Rocher on steroids. Milk and bitter chocolate gelato is served with a hazelnut brownie, whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, and metallic, crunchy, flaky extras rammed in to all spare crevices of the bowl. We were so full that we could only manage one pudding between four of us, but I can tell you the bowl was wiped spotlessly clean!
Now, confession time. It was lunchtime, and as I drooled and drooled over the Negroni menu, my sensible and boring inner voice told me not to have one for lunch. Which is just as well as I wouldn’t have made it to the pudding (I have been known to knock ‘em back at night, but best I stick to il vino at lunchtime).
At £10.25 a pop, you can choose from a menu of six gins, six sweet Vermouths and six bitters. There’s a Gin Bordiga (smoky). An Occitan London (junpier, cardamom) and Bordiga Rosa (spicy coriander). Mix with one of my favourites the Antica Formula (dates and vanilla). The Cocchi Americano (rose and ginger) or the Belsazar (fruity and spicy with cloves). Finish with a swirl of bitter Campari, Aperol. Aperitivo (rhubarb) or Cynar (artichoke).
Mamma mia, that Negroni menu is definitely worth a second visit. Mother’s Day beckons… Arrivederci Harry!
Harry’s Dolce Vita
27-31 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1BB. You can visit the website here.