The Natural Elegance and Impeccable Heritage of Italian Cuisine at Harry's Dolce Vita in London
Venice, the truly phenomenal! It is one thing to follow “hype” when it comes to trying somewhere or something brand new, but it is a completely different thing to experience history’s phenomenal beauty and splendour. Recently, I had the fortune (quite by accident) of visiting and staying in one of the most stunning corners of this time-old city, Lido do Venezia, at the Excelsior di Venezia *5L.
Within minutes of leaving Marco Polo Airport, you face Venice in all its grandeur history, and renaissance, the unspoiled set of The Merchant of Venice. Every turn of corners and across the hundreds of bridges cements why Italians are the best at enjoying life and protecting their heritage.
One such aspect of course most will agree, is Italian food. In fact, Venetian food is home to the well-loved concept of cicchetti – the Italian concept of “sharing” small dishes, best enjoyed in good company and under great settings. You can never tire of Venice or its food. So it was no surprise that upon return to London, the first place fit to attend to ermines and eschew any Breixt was at Harry Dolce Vita, right in the heart of Knightsbrige. The history of this restaurant started in Venice, and remains so vividly through the food.
Harry’s is all about dining in natural elegance with a serving of impeccable homage to culinary heritage. All exemplary of the Italian way of standing out amongst a crowd of overly voguish London restaurants. But you wouldn’t expect anything less from innovative Caprice Holding restaurants. Add in a sprinkle of the London dolce vita, and you have the perfecto recipe to turn a tenuous year into a haven of paradise. In any other year, al fresco dining would mean no more than making the most of London’s short summer. However, in keeping with Harry’s take on the dolce vita, its Summer Terrace is the perfect place to flock to for al fresco seating – and beyond summer. Between August – October, candy-floss and floral themed designs are executed tastefully, complete with a vintage vespa on display, whilst partnering On’dina Gin.
Harry’s indoor furnishings are as beautiful as they are authentic, bringing Murano glass, silky Fortuny fabrics, flooring reminiscent of the Venice mooring posts, finished off with brass fixtures and antiquated mirrors.
The menu at Harry’s Dolce Vita brings guests some of the best Italian seasonal ingredients, thanks to executive chef Diego Cardoso, formerly of The Connaught and head chef at Angela Hartnett’s Murano, and write of many books. There are menus for breakfast, weekend brunch as well as a la carte and express, alongside a dedicated Black Truffle Menu for all the seasonal truffle-based dishes. We had the pleasure of being looked after by Luciano, an enthusiastic and welcoming host, who warmly attended to all our culinary needs. He presented us with some of the summer menu’s best recommendations, including his personal favourites.
Whilst deciding on our dishes of choice, we were presented with truffled nuts covered in a crumble of truffle alongside succulent Nocellara olives. For starters we opted for the Prosciutto. It was sliced wafer thin as it should be, and not salty like many commercial varieties that find their way onto other restaurant menus. To the side, there is a generous serving of fried bread, the airy donut kind, but without the grease – so addictive! We also went for the calamari, considering Venice is a lagoon aqua park for seafood, which tasted so fresh as if “catch of the day”. I still salivate over the crunchy outside and soft chunks of squid on the inside.
As recommended by Luciano, I opted for the Tagliolini, egg pasta with parmesan cheese and truffle oil and shavings. Most pasta dishes are served in copper pans to create the ideal blend of ingredients and sauce through the pasta when plated at your table. So light and creamy, without overdoing the truffle oil so that the truffle shavings slowing melt into flavour over your palette.
We also ordered the Lobster Spaghetti – Lobster cooked in white wine, fresh chilli, datterini tomatoes, garlic, basil and Amalfi lemon, finished with Harry’s Olive Oil. The lobster tail comes deviled on the top, succulent and tasty although it didn’t scream decadent to me.
For the secondi, we chose to share Harry’s Veal Parmesan (another of Luciano favourites we trusted in) – and this was a good choice, actually I would say it is the piece de resistance of all veal dishes I have tried (except perhaps at London’s Baliogni Hotel with their Veal Milanese breaded on-the-bone style). Harry’s Veal Parmesan perfected by the crunch from the parmesan mixed into the crust, and the rosé veal was baked to a tender pink. The veal is then garnished with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil and Parmesan, and more datterini tomatoes adding the extra cherry on top and a good alternative to a side of tomato spaghetti.
Whilst we had no space left for dessert, Luciano simply said “you must try the Toadstool; it is our most famous dessert”. Careful not to disappoint our host, coupled with the fact that a Dolce experience must include some dolci, we happily went ahead to order (with a side of espresso).
Shaped like a toadstool, with red and white for more Italian style, crafted with iced vanilla parfait and white chocolate, filled with a creamy white chocolate and vanilla mascarpone mousse that all together melt in the mouth. Raspberries adorn the dish as well as form the red powdered decor for the toad hat. For the “grass” you have crunchy pistachio biscotti, in a sea of warm pistachio sauce served table side. All in all, this sweetness could not have been missed off our Harry’s experience. A fun play on the green, white, red in the Italian flag was a rightful nod to a refreshing and impeccable Italian meal experience.