It’s easy to miss down an unprepossessing street off the “wrong part” of Oxford Street – that’s the bit towards Tottenham Court Road tube but still just a walk from London’s premier shopping.
For despite its low key exterior, Latium – at 24 Berners Street W1 – is one of London’s most exciting restaurants. It’s Italian but about as far removed from most people’s idea of an Italian restaurant with oversized pepper grinders as London is from Sydney.
I first discovered it just before Christmas, looking for a lunchtime treat at somewhere new. My first choice – which I’ve totally forgotten – was booked solid. Then I found Latium.
And yes, we walked straight past it the first time. But once through the door, the service was attentive without being over-powering. And the food is something from seventh heaven.
Latium works on fixed price menus. The lunchtime and early evening (for pre-theatre) menu costs £16.50 a head for two courses or £22.50 for three. And then there’s the £33 anytime menu. That’s for three courses – why would anyone want to stint themselves? Latium is owned by Chef-Patron Maurizio Morelli, along with London restaurateur, Claudio Pulze.
The menu covers Italy, but with a particular emphasis on the cuisine of Lazio (the area around Rome). Morelli sources ingredients from small, artisan producers, many specially imported from his hometown of Latina.
On my first visit we opted for the £33 deal. The menu changes regularly according to seasonal availability and the mouthwatering duck dish and chicken we each had as our main was no longer there on our second visit, a group of six.
One constant – most original item – is the “Ravioli” menu. Yes, you can enjoy ravioli for starters, main and pudding – obviously you for one or two courses as well. Ravioli desserts include a chocolate dish, with brown pasta and an applle and mint confection which is green.
On my second visit, I chose Tagliatelle con Funghi di Bosco e Castagne (Tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and chestnuts) followed by Guancia di Manzo Brasato al Vino Rosso, Pure di Patate allo Zafferano, Cipolline Glassate (Beef cheek braised in red wine, saffron mash potato, glazed baby onions). It was delicious. The others mostly opted for Pheasant wrapped in Parma Ham – way beyond wonderful. And I finished with a mint and apple ravioli.
Staff bring bread and small dishes as soon as you sit down – but if you really want extra vegetables “Contorni” cost £3.50 a time.
The wine list is dominated by regional Italians – on my second visit we exhausted the cellar of Catarrato, a Sicilian white and a snip at £25.50 a bottle. Wines start at a very reasonable £16 with a massive choice under £40.
With half a bottle of wine a person, coffee and service, expect to pay around £55 per head for the main menu. It’s a bargain. And it’s a foodie paradise that’s still below the radar.
Latium 21 Berners Street London W1T 3LP T: +44 (0)20 7323 9123 E: [email protected]
Lunch: Mon-Fri 12:00 to 15:00
Dinner: Mon-Fri 17:30 to 22:30 – Sat 17.30 to 23:00 – Sun 17.30 to 22.30