You haven’t heard of Isabel on Mayfair’s Albemarle Street? Well I hadn’t either until a well connected friend took me there for a drink. I should say, it’s not the sort of restaurant I’d usually enjoy; a rich “I’m not happy with this table” Mayfair clientele and it’s super exclusive; basic website, no Twitter, no Instagram but I found myself in love with the place.
The ground floor dining room (we’re politely declined entry to the basement bar) has a ceiling of gold lampshades which is quite a spectacle. It feels swanky with its swish carpet and fancy wallpaper. Staff members glide about the place in white jackets.
The menu consists of small plates with something for everybody and given the location, it’s not unreasonable. Nduja and tomato pizzette (£7) is a lovely little thing with a fiery kick. Vitello tonnato (£9), that’s thinly sliced veal topped with a tuna sauce, would do the Granny’s of Piedmontese proud. The tuna sauce is so silky and rich we consider plate licking.
Talking of rich, no not the customers, the beef rib ravioli (£9) is super beefy. The pasta is thin and filled with soft, fatty beef and gravy which oozes out. Aji chicken (£12) is less wowing because the chick is a touch dry.
Grilled lamb rack (£15) sees three juicy lamb cutlets with crisp fat – have I mentioned I’m a fan of lamb fat? We feel comfortable enough to gnaw the meat off the bone with our fingers. Nice.
Roast domino sweet potatoes (£4) are thin slices of sweet potato, semi soft, semi crisp, stacked like dominos. Unusual but good. Burrata with roast tomato (£6) shows someone cares about sourcing decent produce – it’s creamy, light and gorgeous. Grilled courgettes (£5) are another simple but delightful one.
For pud, we share the raspberry millefeuille (£6) which after a lot of food is surprisingly light. There’s creme patisserie, fresh raspberries, I’m even getting some pistachio – we devour it in seconds.
What is most impressive about Isabel is that without any PR, any hype, the place is rammed. It helps that flamboyant owner, Juan Santa Cruz, owns West London hotspot Casa Cruz and has an impressive Christmas card list. Either way, this is certainly a hot new opening and one I think you’re going to like.
Would we go back? Yes