Besides dessert, Italian cuisine is my Achilles heel. I love it for its simplicity and its synergy with other elements that make a good meal; olive oil, cheese, wine… what I find incredible about Italian food is that there is no pretence; where French is all fine dining and techniques of the cuisine and is often times rooted in history, which is not a bad thing; Italian feels like it was thrown together without fuss but with confidence and feeling…it is a cuisine that gathers, full mouths and laughter, hands and slurps. Bardo St James kicks things up a notch without being fussy.

The fussiest might be the interior, a lower ground space that is akin to a cellar of only the finest of wines, mood lighting that is not so dark thank goodness and comfortable chairs that you can easily sink into; THANK THE LORD! I have a thing about restaurants with hard chairs; I don’t like it.

The bar, is adorned with the finest liquor and the friendliest of staff that can whip up a mean cocktail… a smoked negroni that tasted like the sun and stars. It’s a beauty. Tall green upholstered chairs that feel plush to settle into as you watch the bartenders mix your drinks… be careful here because you will be tempted to have more than one glass of something sinfully good.

The interior is pure class; besides the plushness of the bar and the marbled floor and the beautiful women who welcome you at the desk, the chairs are red velvet and there is a grand piano where in the course of the night you will get serenaded as we did. It whispers of money, an authenticity. That Luca Maggiora sure knows what he is doing here. He started off in nightclubs which makes sense because this also feels like a place you can be casual and have a good time without feeling as if you have overstayed your welcome. You cannot here, you know when to head home.

The food… the food… oh the food. Everything we ate here was stupendous, the chef is ex bvlgari Graciano Bonacina, in Kensington, he’s been good and still is. There comes a time when you know good food needs only be in the hands of those who understands it and he understands good food and better yet what it is supposed to do. This is fine itialia cuisine but you never feel the pretence; there are no flights of fancies overtaking the taste buds, no artisanal bullshit, no fuss, no confusion. The taste profile is there, revealing at every bite.

The Ravioli cacio e pepe is amongst the best I have tasted in my life and that includes in Rome which is where I until now had possibly the best cacio e pepe… I don’t know but this was majestic. The roasted seabass; Branzino arrosto was heaven on the lips but there were two heavenly options on the menu; the octopus which was so good it couldn’t be better, seasoned and moreish, the perfect texture with the right amount of everything, but the show stopper here was the truffled pinsa… so good we had a second board. This is how to make truffle, this is how cheese and truffle should mix and marinate and keep each other company; a soft bread, with a gentle crisp of the edge and a bit, just a tiny bit of charred that only enhances the taste. This is a menu prepared by someone who actually gives a damn about food, about ingredients and about the seasons considering they work closely with UK and Italian producers. You can taste it in the tomatoes which is amongst the finest if not the finest San Marzano, the broccoli hand chilli had just the right amount of crunch and it is delicious. Everything is how it ought to be, how it ought to be done. Every single thing here is perfection.

Bardo is quite the place, with quite the menu and I do hope it lasts. As someone who eats out when I am in London and enjoy London restaurants which is amongst the best in the world, they can often feel ephemeral and in the tough times we’ve had I want to see the hospitality places back in action. I want to hear glasses clinking and laughter ringing, heck I want to stumble out of a restaurant deliriously tipsy and happy with only the best memories of the night. Go eat at Bardo St. James.

BARDO ST JAMES | 4 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX