Veneta brings the timeless magic of Venetian food to St James’s

Hashtag Life visits new Venetian Restaurant on the Mayfair Scene, in St James’ Market: Veneta, to try their modern twist on the Italian city’s culinary delights

Last November, St James’ market, one of the crispest, most alluring new developments in Mayfair, saw the opening of new Ventian Restaurant by Salt Yard Group, Veneta. The restaurant is inspired by ‘the timeless magic of Venice’ which has a long and rich culinary heritage, from its roots in the silk and spice trades over many centuries meaning the cross-over and interaction of cultures and inspiration. As with many artisanal traits which epitomise Italian culture, Veneta has aimed to show case a distinctive spot on Venetian food and the the Venetian way of life. So what did this translate to when we visited last week for a taste of their menu ranging from the a ‘raw bar’, ‘cicchetti’ and (not so) small plates?

On first impression, the restaurant is light, breezy and spacious on a hot and stuffy London day. A beautiful layout of an upper mezzanine over looks the ground floor and bar which spill out onto a pedestrianised courtyard through open glass doors. The atmosphere is elegant and relaxed, and seems to bare a sense of privacy and relaxation at each table as none are cluttered too closely. We are greeted by the hostess Alex, and her bright smile and demeanour and welcomed at our table by the uber-polite Donald who takes us through the menu and answers the most pivotal question of every restaurant that carries the ‘small plate’ concept: how many plates should we order? We of course opt for the upper-limit of his advice of 2-3 plates each as well as a couple of cicchetti to start with as everything on the menu looks delicious and inviting.

I wanted to be adventurous with the ‘raw bar’ which offers everything from Oysters and Shrimps to a ‘Prosecco Cured River Trout’ but instead opted for a Sea Bream Carpaccio with a blood orange dressing, crispy kale and pickled carrots – mostly out of interest to how it would compare to the sea bream carpaccio usually found in Japanese cuisine. The seabags is fresh, chilled, and refreshing, and  you would never know it is raw as it is so soft and the the flavour comes through so strongly. The orange and pickled carrot garnishes add a sweet touch which in moderation, balance it out – but the best addition is the kale, which tastes like seaweed, and is crisp and fried to perfection.

Speaking of perfection; the Wild Garlic and Prosecco Risotto with Spring Truffle and Egg Yolk which followed is unimaginable. It is gooey, more-ish and plentiful. The parmesan flavour is creamy and present, the truffle is subtle and serves more as an aftertaste – the egg yolk adds texture and more creaminess. A brilliant dish and must have.

We opted next for one of their off-menu specials – a Cuttlefish dish which is braised for two hours in the squid ink and served in a bed of creamed polenta. It is presented beautifully and the zesty lime aromas waft from the plate. The cuttlefish is so soft it crumbles in your mouth whilst releasing a buttery flavour. The polenta is light, fluffy and airy and does not overpower the flavour at all. I’m hoping this unique dish is still on the menu for my next visit!

As one fish dish is never enough, we paired this with the Grilled Octopus which you can never really go wrong with. Really Tuscan tastes come through here because of the oil steak and sweet tomatoes atop the crispy polenta cake. I have to add a disclaimer here that I will usually never order anything with the word ‘polenta’ after trying it once at 17 and deciding it was a resentable knock-off of anything that can be made better using potato! I seemed to completely forget this at Veneta, as the creativity and variety of how it is paired with each main ingredient is executed so well. It was so good I almost forgot to try the octopus which carries a strong charred flavour for a strongly grilled taste.

Our last dish, another special, was the Beef Short-rib which I can never escape once I find it on a menu. I was so lost in the rich and intricate flavours in this dish, I would struggle to describe them. The mellow chickpea puree and salsa verde garnish which accompany it are delicious. An additional fig puree has the perfect sticky-sweet consistency to match a flavoursome and succulent short rib. It made for the end of what I wrote in my notes as an utterly, utterly (utterly x 2 can only equal a great success!) satisfying meal.

Too full as always for dessert we washed down the meal after a timely break with once scoop of their Burrata Gelato and Basil Granita. It. Is. So. Good! The burrata ice-cream is as creamy as you’d expect and the basil-granita is a zesty and effective palette cleanser. As we all know: the Italians really do know what they’re doing when it comes to balancing courses! The lovely Alex, who had introduced me to a delicious red wine from their extensive list earlier – The Gran Passione – emerged with ‘a little surprise’ for us, and what she described as liquid nectar, in the form of a dessert wine. And so, we drank our nectar, like the Gods would, and prepared ourselves to retreat to our beds in the gentle food-coma we had lulled ourselves into!

I would visit Veneta again, and again – and with London’s exploding food scene, its not often anyone can actually say that and mean out, purely out of the unending choice of new restaurants. Pop in, and try some cicchetti and small plates though, and come back and tell me how you couldn’t agree more. Whether date night, a family outing, or a catch-up with friends, I can’t think of a mood or occasion which wouldn’t be satisfied by this beautiful menu, venue and team.

Veneta is also offering Sunday Feasts with free-flowing drinks every Sunday Lunchtime:  Head Chef Jamie Thickett has created a new feasting menu that is perfectly designed for sharing with your loved ones. For just £35 per person it includes four decadent courses and unlimited Prosecco or Venetian red or white wine. ​Click here to view a sample menu. Email: info@veneta-stjames.co.uk for bookings.

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