Music is a much underrated part of a dining experience. I’ve eaten at restaurants where the music is too loud, with my companion and I bellowing at each other in a most unromantic fashion, and I’ve eaten at restaurants that are as silent as a mausoleum, an ambiance that sucks all the fun out of dining and makes you wince guiltily if your chair scrapes against the floor. IT London is part of the IT Restaurants group and live music is part of their business model, with daily sets from renowned DJs breathing a vibrancy into the dining experience that pairs with the modern Mediterranean cuisine like a fine wine. The group has restaurants in places such as Tulum, Porto Cervo, Ibiza and Mykonos, where the restaurants provide a smooth transition between the chillout vibe of your exclusive beach club to the club where you dance the night away. Their city locations, such as Milan and IT London in Mayfair, are also exceedingly popular with the trendsetting crowd.
As soon as we had been shown to our seats by the charming Tony, it was clear that the luxurious and relaxed vibe pervaded every corner of the room. The music was upbeat and lounge-y, enough to make you feel lively but not to be overbearing. The décor was modern and tactile, with deep, cushioned chairs in teal and blush, wall panels covered in velvet and individually lit tables to create a sense of intimacy. The menu, created by IT Restaurants’ executive chef, two Michelin star chef Nino di Costanzo, is full of fresh bright flavours and twists on traditional Italian fare. Of course, for a restaurant that clearly has bright, young things as its target market, the cocktail list at IT London is also extensive and fun.
We decided upon a cocktail to begin our dinner, choosing the IT Spritz, reminiscent of the Aperol classic, but with enough of a twist due to the combination of Absolut Elyx, Campari & grapefruit sorbet, Kalamansi purée and Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut. Even lingering over this aperitif, we were unable to whittle the options down to two starters and opted to try three different small plates and share the other courses.
We began with a lobster parmigiana; sweet chunks of tail and claw meat rested upon quenelles of creamy aubergine, dotted with sun blushed tomatoes and fresh basil. It was a dish that sang of freshness, with each ingredient in harmony and the lobster the unquestioned star. The wine to accompany this, a 2020 Poggio dei Gelsi Falesco, has slight floral aromas and a balanced palate that suited the well-structured and complex dish. The other seafood starter was a sea bass tartare, a fish which often lends itself to sweeter sauces in its raw form, in this case combined with pomegranate, passion fruit and asparagus. This was again wonderfully paired with a O Rosé Camargue wine, a blend by Les Grands Domaines Marc Escassut from Languedoc-Roussillon, which had well balanced acidity and fruitiness.
The third starter arrived once the first two were finished and was not entirely as we were expecting. Billed as gnocco frito (a single fried dumpling), Aspromonte cured ham from the acorn-stuffed Calabrian black pig and stracciata of buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, what arrived was a kind of do-it-yourself doughballs with a pile of ham, a bowl of whipped mozzarella and a bowl of silky tomatoes. This is the kind of food that speaks of sun-drenched cafes with lazy hours of grazing on aperitivo snacks and aperol spritzes. Piling each gnocco high with toppings, only to have those rich flavours all dancing in your mouth at once, was a lovely light-hearted approach to fine dining and all the elements were salty in just the right amounts to leave you perfectly satisfied, yet already scanning the table for the next delights.
We continued with the primo course, choosing to share a mezzi paccheri cacio e pepe con gamberi, which they kindly served as two half portions so that my dining partner could have the dish without the prawns. I once ate this cheese and pepper pasta dish with a similar seafood topping in Florence and it is still the benchmark by which I measure all cheesy pasta dishes. This one was excellent, creamy, salty and rich, with the prawns juicy and sweet as though they had been cooked within minutes of being pulled from the sea. This course was paired with a Velenosi Querci’Antica Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi, the light green fruit flavours and flintiness of which cut through the cheesy sauce.
Not wishing to weigh ourselves down in case there was to be dancing later, as the music seemed to promise, we opted to split the main course as well. This very traditionally flavoured plate consisted of veal cheek that simply fell apart with the lightest nudge from one’s fork, smooth mashed potato and a salad (perhaps more of a garnish) of leafy bean sprouts. The sauce was meaty and satisfying, combining perfectly with the intensity of the wine pairing, a Nero di Troia from Cantine Massimo Leone, Puglia. This was a hearty, warming dish and I somewhat regretted choosing to share, although it did leave me room for dessert, a sort of deconstructed tiramisu with a little chocolate cake topped with a truffle, a frothy shot and a curl of sweet ice cream.
When we left, feeling sated yet buoyant, there were already people queuing to get into the upstairs area where there was more live music and cocktails. IT London is a bit of a magnet for those who want to be seen in the right places, but this takes nothing away from its exciting Italian menu, high end luxury décor and top quality service. As a place to dine with a small group, a partner or your wing-people before you hit the town, IT London will get you in the mood with the perfect soundtrack and provide you with the fuel you need to keep going to the early hours!
28-29, Dover Street