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TIPPLE & FARE

Food, drink and fine dining The comings and goings of the culinary classes

No clowning around

Matthew Steeples reviews Toto’s in Knightsbridge, London

 

It takes something for me to be impressed with a restaurant but after three visits to the newly reopened Toto’s in Knightsbridge, I will boldly declare that I believe it to be the best opening of 2014.

 

The main dining room in Toto's restaurant is bright and elegant
The main dining room in Toto’s restaurant is bright and elegant
The restaurant's garden is open for daytime dining
The restaurant’s garden is open for daytime dining

Hidden in a private mews, the original Toto’s – named after the famous comic actor and clown Totò – was for some odd reason somewhere I never visited. I am not sure why but perhaps it was because whenever it was mentioned people referred to it as a “date restaurant” and somewhere that was “a bit past it”. Instead, I always chose the neighbouring Scalini instead as it is lively, consistently excellent and ably run.

 

Both Scalini – which I still enjoy visiting on a regular basis– and Toto’s were sold by their respective owners to two different Indian families but each, under their new guides, retain Italian management and style.

 

Unlike Scalini which remains untouched in terms of its decor, Toto’s closed for two years and has been the subject of a £3 million refurbishment under the guidance of Silvano Giraldin, 65, the “famously discreet” former manager of Le Gavroche. The result is a classically styled Italian restaurant with a modern twist that centres around a double height dining room dominated by a stunning oak fireplace dated 1559.

 

Enrico Molino and Stefano Stecca
Enrico Molino and Stefano Stecca

The restaurant – managed by Enrico Molino (also formerly of Le Gavroche)– is entered through a stylish bar beyond which are two levels of dining space and a courtyard garden for daytime dining.

 

Toto’s menu has already proved a hit. Albert Roux described the pasta as “the best he had ever eaten” and with Stefano Stecca – formerly of Sette, Novikov and The Wellesley – in the kitchen, simple yet refined Italian dishes are the dominant theme.

 

Starters number such dishes as a raw and cooked artichoke salad with Pecorino cheese shavings (£9), vitello tonnato (£12) and a selection of raw fish (£19) but for me the highlight was the Venetian style sardines in Saor (£9).

 

The menu continues with eight pasta dishes and three risottos. My favourite was a superb tortelli filled with Gorgonzola and a veal ragout (£11) that is certainly the highlight of the menu whilst main courses include a T-bone Fiorentina for two (£58) and grilled wild sea bass with Swiss chard and a parsley sauce (£24).

 

To conclude, the offering is just what one would expect. Alongside tiramisu (£6), there is a chocolate mousse (£8) and a selection of cheeses (£9) but the standout choice has to be the ricotta tart with fresh strawberries (£6). It truly can be described as being the perfect conclusion to any meal.

 

A stylish bar stands at the entrance to the restaurant
A stylish bar stands at the entrance to the restaurant

 

Aside from serving a mean Negroni, the drinks offering at Toto’s, equally, is impressive but surprisingly not bank breaking. There are approximately 250 wines on the restaurant’s list and amongst the reasonably priced options on offer are Verdicchio (£7 per glass), Gavi di Gavi (£9 per glass) and Villa Sparina (£8 per glass, £22 per bottle).

 

Naturally, with such fine cooking and superlative service, the clientele at Toto’s is quite international. Well-heeled locals sit alongside early fans of the restaurant. Amongst them are the food writer Tom Parker-Bowles and the owner of South Kensington’s La Brasserie, Peter Godwin.

 

Toto’s is definitely a restaurant that will make its mark on London’s culinary scene. There’s certainly no clowning around going on here.

 

Toto’s, Walton House, Lennox Gardens Mews, Off Walton Street, London, SW3 2JH. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7589 2062.

 

 

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Comments

11 comments on “No clowning around”

  1. Eat some more…It will be a well deserved break from Meals on Wheels. I hope my care package includes this kind of benefit.

  2. I popped in the other day….full of very odd looking people who certainly looked as if they would not have passed the ‘Know your client’ test…
    It’s shame that there are so few local restaurants where an English gentleman can feel comfortable: I certainly don’t feel like breaking bread amongst a load of sinister looking foreigners….call me old fashioned if you will.
    Mind you, I would probably endure it as long as I didn’t have to pay for it.

    1. Toto’s is well worth paying for. I’ve been three times and the food is superb. The clientele are sophisticated and pleasant and a number of friends have visited and been impressed. The welcoming staff were most pleasant.

  3. Everybody in K’bridge is now ‘sophisticated- whatever that might mean….even the Russians and others from regions you would not wish your daughter to be sending postcards from. Sorry, Matthew, it’s just not to the taste of a rather old fashioned Englishman like me.I will leave it for racy young men like you to patronise…

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