Opening a restaurant to make an immediate impression in the rich and varied culinary landscape of London is no easy task. This city, with a seemingly healthy appetite for novelties, seems to be the perfect playground for the inventive and creative. But it takes more than creativity to make it work and this is what Bacchanalia has achieved, a new Greco-Roman-themed restaurant in the northwest corner of Berkeley Square. If you are looking to step away for a brief while and allow for some time of inspiration for an afternoon lunch in London, you may not need to look any further.
'Everything here is created to be shared. The wine you drink, the music you hear, the food on the table – but also the vibe. Be curious, and share', says Athinagoras Kostakos, Bacchanalia’s Culinary Director. Merging Italian food and Greek, from these two Mediterranean countries so close to one another both in customs and tradition, Bacchanalia offers an experience like no other. Perched on the corner of Mount Street and Davies Street this location is ideal for a pitstop between a shopping spree and museum hopping.
Discreet, yet inviting, we agree that this restaurant is one of a kind with its sculptures by Damien Hirst of naked creatures descending from the ceiling, even imitating a religious experience with the chapel like fresco of saints and sinners using their mobile phones instead of other objects of pleasure. And at the heart of it is food, glorious food: Light, invigorating, vibrant; the allure of Mediterranean eating has lasted millennia. Now, reimagining Greece and Italy’s best-loved recipes, Bacchanalia attempts to simplify and intensify the classics to a new level of sophistication. We are swayed to believe they have succeeded.
The menu is indeed an interesting mix, it is rare to see Greek and Italian classics on the same menu. We are transported to Rome with a linguine vongole and back to Greece with keftedes, Greek-style meatballs, tomato relish and smoked yoghurt or the delightful grilled octopus with Greek ospriada beans, wild oregano sauce and capers. We chose to start with two classics, tuna tartare with citrus dressing, avocado and crispy spiced phyllo and the unmistaken Italian dish vitello tonnato with tuna sauce, fried capers and kritamo. This was followed by burrata with datterini tomato & confit San Marzano, basil and thyme and an incredibly good beetroot salad; no wonder it is popular, and something pleasantly enjoyed in the winter as well as summer. Following linguine vongole and taglioline truffles our main course was a shared salt crust sea bass with citrus dressing theatrically served with flames alight and simple wild greens, cavolo nero and Catalonia chicory.
'For an experience like no other, select what is only served here', we are advised and pleasantly surprised by the Greek Assyrtiko white wine accompanying our courses throughout the meal. But the bar is worth a visit on its own merit with its delectable cocktails retold from a Mediterranean perspective. The wine list features over 650 references from Greece, Italy, France and beyond. And we are told Bacchanalia is the only destination in London to feature 25 Italian 100-point wines, also including exclusive Bacchanalia own-label wines.
They say Bacchanalia is for those who long to escape at lunchtime. It certainly is a place worth visiting any time of day, but you may want to clear your afternoon diary if there for lunch. At least if you are having desert. Characterful classics are elevated into something quite exotic. Our choices were delightful, bacchanalia tiramisu with mascarpone cream and hidden coffee namelaka and savoiardi biscuit and classic baba with rum filled with vanilla cream & served with star anise infused pineapple.
The ancient story of Bacchanalia has thus been reimagined. Greco-Roman feasting, revived imaginatively with exquisite ingredients and vintages. Legendary entertainment, set within breath-taking interiors. As our visit draws to a close, we experience the atmosphere turn seductive and the designs of Martin Brudnizki Studio fully displaying their grandeur. A world we might want to visit again quite soon.