Peter Morrell likes the food, the service and the comfortable atmosphere in this Italian restaurant
The Good Food Society, who own a number of highly regarded restaurants like Frescobaldi, Yosma and Hovarda, have opened Caffe Cinquanta on London’s Baker Street, I recently had lunch there with a friend and on arrival, we found that one of its most striking features was the décor. The restaurant’s interior has been designed by B3 and has a 1950’s Italian theme with classic designs and vintage details.
The dining space itself is large and airy, so it was a comfortable and relaxing place to have a conversation with a companion. We had a window seat which looked out onto an al fresco dining area where you can soak up the sun and the bustling vibe of Baker Street.
In line with the décor, the food is classic Italian. The menu is split into sections, Cicchetti, small plates rather like tapas to nibble on, Antipasti, Pasta and Main courses. There is also a daily special to tempt you. Although we didn’t indulge, a line-up of Italian Aperitivi including Aperol spritz, Negroni and Bellini will get your meal off to a good start. If you wanted the Cicchetti as an appetiser before the starter and main arrived then Tomato Bruschetta, Olives or Sourdough Bread would do the trick.
There was a good range of starters with favourites like Arancini Balls, Burrata and Parmigiana di Melanzane to the fore. My friend chose Carpaccio di Manzo and I had squid. The Carpaccio looked highly attractive when it arrived and the taste matched its appearance. It was moist and full of flavour and enhanced by a Cipriani sauce.
My fried squid was equally good, succulent and tender, it had lots of taste. It was served with a very intense garlic aioli which added another dimension to the dish.
We decided not to have both a pasta and a main course so opted for the pasta. If we had elected to go for mains as well, then lamb, chicken and salmon were on the menu.
There was a good selection of pastas, the Farfalle with Pesto and the Pappardelle with slow cooked Lamb were both worthy possibilities. My companion’s choice was a vegetarian option, Pici Cacio e Pepe and mine was Spaghetti Bolognese. My friend’s dish was pasta with black pepper and pecorino which was very enjoyable. The sauce with the spaghetti was a Veal ragu and had lots of flavour. Both of the pastas were highly satisfying.
The well-curated wine list is predominately Italian but with a sprinkling of wines from France and Australia. Our pairing for the meal was the Pieno Sud Rosso, a red from Sicily. It was a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes and weighed in at a reasonable 12.5%, making it ideal for lunchtime. It had good red fruit aromas in the bouquet that were joined by spicy notes on the palate. Medium bodied, the wine had well-balanced tannins that gave it a smooth mouthfeel. The finishing was fresh and fruity. It matched the food well, particularly the pasta.
Despite the generous portions of the first two courses, we found enough space for desserts. Resisting the temptation of Tiramisu, my companion had Lemon Tart and I decided that, as it was an Italian restaurant, it had to be ice cream. The Tart was light and had a very strong lemon taste. My scoop each of vanilla and chocolate ice creams were rich and flavourful.
Throughout the meal, the service was friendly and efficient which added to the dining experience.
The Marylebone area where we were eating is high rent and my friend and I were both surprised that the prices were so reasonable, offering great value for money. Antipasti dishes were between £6 and £10 and the pastas from £9 to £14, with the averages being at the lower end of the range.
If you are in the West End and want a break from your retail therapy then Caffe Cinquanta is the perfect spot. It’s only a short stroll from Selfridges and Marble Arch M&S and you will leave refreshed and relaxed after lunch or dinner. I can recommend it.
50 Baker Street, London W1U 7BT
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday – 11am – 11pm, Sunday – 11am – 6pm
Tel: +44 20 3019 6282