Located in the heart of London, overlooking Grosvenor Square, Avista at the Millennium Mayfair Hotel is a Three AA Rosette restaurant offering a contemporary twist on authentic Italian cuisine only using the freshest of carefully sourced ingredients. With their truffle menu having come into season we sent our London expert Laura along to find out more.
Background and Concept
The restaurant thrives under the expertise of Executive Chef Arturo Granato who knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 12. Growing up in the charming City of Salerno on the Amalfi Coast, Arturo credits a passionate cousin who was a teacher and chef and the unfettered access to an abundance of seafood, colourful fresh fruit and vegetables for his early aspirations. Later working with chefs including Giovani Ciresa he discovered his passion for contemporary fine dining and Michelin star restaurants. When asked what he enjoyed eating away from work, Arturo responded “I enjoy visiting Michelin star restaurants, I have been to nearly all of them in London”, and with this amount of research he sets the bar very high.
The design of the restaurant is light and airy with exposed brickwork at the back giving it a touch of rustic charm in otherwise modern surroundings. There are plenty of round tables with booth style seating making it a perfect venue for a small social gathering or an intimate dinner for two. There is a frequently changing artist exhibition organised by a local gallery, the most recent being by Burmese artist Min Wae Aung.
Guests have the option of the la carte menu, the Chef’s seven course tasting menu or the special truffle menu. We were fortunate to be dining during the white truffle season which runs from October through to December. The menu changes throughout the year to accommodate the best truffles so diners visiting next month will enjoy a menu designed around the black truffle. We decided to weave white truffle specialties with dishes from the a la carte menu.
Italians are well known for their generous hospitality and a meal at Avista starts with a selection of freshly baked breads and crostini served with olive oil from Tuscany and a trio of butters including pumpkin, black pepper and lime and a remarkable bacon butter. An amuse-bouche of a macaroon constructed of beetroot meringue and horseradish ganache was light, fluffy and melted in the mouth, contrasting well with the crisp mushroom tapioca.
A starter of slow cooked egg carefully cooked at 60 degrees for an hour was complimented with crunchy quinoa, pancetta, potato foam and white truffle. Getting slow cooked eggs right is a fine art that they have mastered well at Avista. My guest tried the scallops perfectly pan fried and served with squid carpaccio, orange coral sauce and fennel sorbet which painted a colourful picture and wonderful contradiction of textures.
For the pasta course we went with Arturo’s recommendation of veal ossobuco ravioli, saffron, candied ginger, garlic and truffle; this dish is a must try and with six al dente ravioli, it is easy to share if you are debating whether to indulge in four courses. From the truffle menu, the home-made tagliolini is vibrant with watercress chlorophyll and finished with a light pecorino foam.
For the main course we both chose from the white truffle menu. The lighter option of lemon sole in tempura was set off beautifully alongside candied lemon from the Amalfi Coast, Jerusalem artichoke, girolle and truffle. The Scottish beef fillet was perfectly tender and enhanced by the sweetness of the port jus, glazed borettane onion and rich velvety ceps.
We decided to share desert and opted for the Italian classic of Tiramisu, however in keeping with the creativity that is consistent throughout Arturo’s menu, this was no ordinary Tiramisu. With a clue in the spelling of ti-ra-mi-su on the menu, this is a deconstructed dish offering a treasure chest of flavours including mascarpone cream, coffee sponge, masala caviar, chocolate biscuits, chocolate soil and coffee sauce. We both agreed it was probably the best Tiramasu that we had ever eaten.
We placed our wine choices in the safe hands of the charismatic Fabio, duty manager, sommelier and welcoming host. With the starters we enjoyed a Pinot Nero from North Italy which was light and smooth with a hint of cherry. The Chablis from Burgundy was elegant and paired perfectly with the scallops. The pasta course was accompanied with a Gavi di Gavi which cut through with citrus aromas. The Valpolicella Classico was full bodied with plums and red cherry. The Lemon sole blended well with the Sauvignon Blanc and a favourite was the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine that packed a punch with fruity plum, blackberry and a chocolate and liquorice finish, a perfect partner to the beef fillet.
The wine list is extensive and offers a comprehensive selection of Italian wines as well as from further afield. Prices start from approximately £30 a bottle and there is a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass from £8.00.
Finances and details
Avista offers something for everyone whether it be just a simple pasta course or a gourmet tasting menu. The Italian staff are attentive and friendly and they are both passionate and knowledgeable about the food and wine from their home country.
The chef’s 7 course tasting menu is £55 per person, £115 with matching wines. The Truffle and a la carte menu offers starters from £10.50, pasta from £13.50 and main courses from £23.50.
For reservations contact 020 7596 3399 or www.avistarestaurant.com