Criterion Check

The Criterion is one of Piccadilly’s institutions. Built in 1873 it’s stood firm against all the noise and bright lights surrounding it. As a restaurant it’s undergone a number of incarnations, and now re-emerged as Savini at Criterion. Dating back to 1867, Savini is Milan’s most famous restaurant, and when the owners, the Gatto Family, decided they needed to share the love, Londoners became the next lucky lot to try out their delicious fare.

Designed by Royal Albert Hall architect Thomas Verity, The Criterion’s Neo-Byzantine dining room and bar, with its gold ceiling and marble columns, makes it feel like you’re walking into a terribly glamorous time capsule. You can pop in at any time and have breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or a simple aperitif.

We went for dinner, and started in the bar, as any right and proper dinner should start, with a chilled glass of Taittinger. From where we sat, we could see an array of Savini products to buy and take home in the in-house boutique. Beautifully packaged preserves, oils, pastas and coffee, it was tempting to buy the lot and start our own mini-Savini at home. Showing unusual restraint, instead we moved through to the main restaurant. We sat in our own cushioned booth, and perused the menu. We started with classic Italian dishes of buffalo mozzarella and 18 months cured Parma ham with melon, and struggled to choose between the veal ossobucco with saffron risotto; pappardelle with wild boar ragout & juniper sauce or Chateaubriand for the main. We plumped for the latter in the end. My dining companion (my dear mother) hadn’t shared a Chateaubriand with anyone since my father in the early ’70s, so it seemed timely to give it another go. It turned out that Dad wasn’t disappointed either as we ended up taking some home for him. It was an enormous portion of the most perfectly cooked steak, slightly charred on the outside and unbelievably tender on the inside. Carved at the table, it was served with peppers, aubergine and potatoes.

For dessert, which was a supreme effort on both our parts to find the room, we had a seasonal fruit tart, which was a summery delight and a stark contrast to the heavy rain outside, and a salted caramel and chocolate panna cotta. Service was perfectly attentive and friendly without being too over-the-top, and we were given a box of their biscuits to take away, so Savini does live on in my home just a little bit.