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A la Colthard/Sartoria and the decline in the middle ranking restaurant.

The title of the post is not intended to confuse so I will begin by stressing that Sartoria in Savile Row is not a middle ranking restaurant. It is expensive and sets high standards of  cuisine, decor and service but it is not for the financially challenged.

Years ago a group of us ladies -who -lunch in the journalistic, commercial or professional world would meet in its private rooms for our Ladies on Top club. The club ground to a halt, some attributing this to the decline in food and commensurate rise in prices. But for me the rot set in when the conversation shifted from which toy is the best for clitoral stimulation to how we can compete in a man’s world!!!   So when a dishy friend of mine who is a heavy hitter in the ad world suggested it as a venue for a regular lunch I was a tad surprised.

In fact it had a new chef/patron Francesco Mazzei whose menu is inspired by his native Calabria. It was extremely good and I have been back three times since. One of my many bug bears is Italian restaurants that pack two diners into compacted tables set too closely alongside each other.

Sartoria has a series of spacious tables for two with large club style chairs where comfort, discretion and privacy are the order of the day.

My friend always orders burrata and spaghetti carbonara. I am something of an expert on spaghetti carbonara, detesting the creamier version that supermarkets and some high street trattoria produce.

The best carbonara I ever tasted was at tredici gobbi (13 hunchbacks) in Florence which usesa warm egg yolk.

It must be an Italian secret as the runny egg appeared in this. It was slightly salted and a 10/10 carbonara.

I was a guest but, checking the prices afterwards, the burrata was £13 and carbonara £17.

My friend chose a Langhi Nebbiolo, a Piedmont red wine, which was deliciously light and reassuringly expensive. The greeting was effusive, the service professional, the gastronomic experience totally satisfying.

I was tasked to write an article on the decline in the high street restaurant.

I trotted out the usual stuff about  delivery at home services offering the restaurants’  meals without the wine on which they make such a profit margin, business rates and too much competition. Over the last week I have eaten in three such restaurants.

The difference between Locale in Fulham and two in Brighton was the service.

At Locale they have a superb manageress, a Swedish lady called Lynn, who knows most of the diners, helps out in the kitchen, serves when there is pressure on waitresses and is forever on the go.

Sadly, to compensate for shrinking profit margins, restaurants engage any old or young staff at minimum wage.

At one such restaurant the waitress got the wine order wrong. When she asked mechanically if we enjoyed a far too sickly sweet cheesecake, we said no and she did not know what to do or say. If restaurants are going to compete they need to brush up on service to provide a gastronomic experience.

Daphne Colthard
About Daphne Colthard

After graduating at RADA but finding no roles Daphne went into magazine journalism with Good Housekeeping. Widely recognised as one of the country's leading restaurant and hotel reviewers, particularly by herself, Daphne is the author of "Bedded and Breakfasted", a light hearted chick novel and Grand Hotels DC: the Daffers Dictionary. Daphne lives in West London and is married to an investment banker Oliver. They have 2 boys Humphrey and Tarquin. More Posts