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Restaurant Review: Pescatori, London

Pescatori
57 Charlotte Street, London
+44(0) 20 7580 3289
Cuisine: Fish & Seafood
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Helen Hokin: A corner of the menu is devoted to lobster – not the predictable Maine variety but our own Dorset Blue. And rightly so. Who wants their thermidor resuscitated from a half-frozen, jet-lagged crustacean?
 
On a recent warm, summery evening the terrace outside Pescatori was festooned with olive trees. Al fresco chairs and tables were elegant all in white.
 
So with this being Charlotte Street—a hub for emerging dining trends—the interior comes as a bit of a surprise. Like a throwback to the 1970s hey-day of fine-dining the walls are pebble-dashed, the ceilings are half-timbered and intimately-lit archways are only missing checked tablecloths and candles in Chianti bottles to complete the scene. Perhaps it’s intentional; a sort of post-modern irony.
 
Sitting quietly above Goodge Street and set slightly apart from the main dining hub further down Charlotte Street, the Italian and sustainable seafood restaurant has been a fixture here for the best part of fifty years operating steadily as the neighbouring competition has no doubt come and gone.
 
Before taking the helm at Pescatori, Executive Chef Chris O’Neill launched James Knight fishmongers in Notting Hill; he knows the fish business and it shows with a menu that reads like a torch of discovery for British seafood.
 
And so, munching pillowy foccacia squares, our own little vine of tomatoes, olive oil and rock salt we vicariously circumnavigate the English coast.
 
My Bruschetta di Granchio starter at £10.50 might sound pricey but the thick doorstop of crunchy toasted ciabatta loaded in equal measure with delicate white and rich brown Dorset crab meat finished with just a couple of creamy slithers of avocado was one heck of a generous plate.
 
Matched in quality and quantity was my pal Michael’s Capesante (£11.95). A pyramid of cockles on the shell, proper meaty ones and as briny as the English seaside, sat in a heap over a bedrock of delicate queen scallops sourced from the Isle of Man and still in fast embrace with their coral-coloured roe. Michael was ecstatic about his seaside starter: the brininess of the cockles, the shininess of the scallops, the herby parsley liquor and punchy wild garlic draped over the top.  British seafood at its best.
 
And in that vein, we continued.  
 
A corner of the menu is devoted to lobster—not the predictable Maine variety but our own Dorset Blue. And rightly so. I mean who wants their thermidor resuscitated from a half-frozen, jet-lagged crustacean? These magnificent swashbucklers of the Dorset sea are trussed up in various ways and we had the choice of lobster and smoked salmon in a toasted sandwich; in a brioche bun with seafood salsa and fries; with Jersey Royals and spring vegetables; in white wine, cream and garlic or as a splendid thermidor (£19.95)
 
My pal tells me his thermidor is outstanding. I take a bite. It’s not stodgy which it sometimes can be but light and creamy with the cooked-out Cognac adding a pleasant depth of flavour, and there’s nothing of that unpleasant wooliness you might find in the defrosted, long-haul variety.
 
I go for the Orata (£22.00) a whole sea bream oven-baked in a salt crust. Our diligent server offers to deconstruct it all for me but I want to do it myself carefully lifting layers of crust to reveal the white flesh beneath. Bite after bite, the moist bream is evenly infused with bittersweet rosemary, very lemony Amalfi lemon and a gentle amount of garlic. It’s simple and delicate.
 
We didn’t need the hearty sides of spinach and chilli (£3.50) or the fried zucchini (£3.50) but made light work of them anyway.
 
Later, I was in the mood for a hot pud. But everything on the dessert menu was cold. Not a problem, they said. How about we warm up the blackberry and almond torte for you? Great, I said. Great, they said. And it’s the little things like that, I guess, that explain why fifty years on, trends might come and go but at Pescatori, things keep rolling smoothly along.
 
Open six days days a week for lunch and dinner (12pm – 10.30pm Monday to Friday and 5.30pm - 11.00pm on Saturday).
The terrace will serve the select menu daily from 3.00pm – 5.30pm. Pescatori also features a private dining room downstairs, suitable for large or intimate private parties for up to 65 people.
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