It’s always interesting to see how hotels handle their restaurants. Some will forever remain soulless dining rooms, churning out breakfasts and snacks while others will find their own identity and enjoy an independent life. The latter are few and far between. Avista, which is tucked away in the Millenium Mayfair Hotel, is currently lurking somewhere between the two.
The room is suitably relaxed or beige and boring, depending on your viewpoint, and the brown leather, muted shades, pale marble and exposed brickwork work much better in natural daylight rather than under the slightly insipid electric lighting but, regardless, it’s a pleasant space. You can also understand the logic behind the decoration. It can still be jazzed up with some colourful flowers and funky glasses but, with a nod to the location, it won’t scare the well-heeled guests and makes the room suitable for business or romance. Or, indeed, in the example sitting opposite us, a probable combination of the two. Perhaps I’m doing her a disservice. Just because she was very, very attractive and Eastern European and he was English, fat and flashing the cash doesn’t mean anything. In a West End hotel. Oh no.
Mind you, whatever the nature of the relationship, we were happy with the diversion at times. Service, while very smiley, wasn’t always hugely efficient, and the food was often good rather than dazzling. When the dazzling dishes came – and they did – they suggested that chef Michele Granziera has considerable talents that aren’t being fully utilised. We are still talking quality though and, at eight courses for £50, it’s hard to find too many faults.
Highlights included the calamari – fresh, presented with some humour in a cone and featuring a single “black” ring that had been seaweed-wrapped before deep-frying – gnocchi with lamb ragout, a ravioli of soft cheese with girolles, a red mullet dish of lovely ocean-scented freshness and the chocolate foam, raspberries and ginger was more mousse-like than restaurant cliché, and the sort of combination that could make grown men whimper. Less successful – but still very pleasant – were the Gamberoni, with grapes and shredded apple, stuffed peppers (good but still stuffed peppers!), and a lamb chop of undoubted quality but lacking in the flavour fireworks. Milk ice cream, violet and pear, while gentle, sweet and refreshing, could also be less “polite”.
Still, it was early days for that visit and a subsequent sneaky return for some lunchtime pasta and divine bresaola suggests that Avista is finding its feet. The service could be tightened up still but it remains friendly, relaxed and, for the area, quite impressive value.
Cuisine type – Italian
Dinner for 2 (ex. drinks) – £70
Beer – £4
Wine – £7
Cocktails – £9
39 Grosvenor Street
London, W1K 2HP
Tel: 020 7596 3399