You can imagine my excitement when one of my favourite chefs announced that he would be opening a restaurant in my local area. Jason Atherton’s first Italian restaurant, Hai Cenato, is one of the many restaurant highlights of the new Nova building in Victoria and Valentine’s Day seemed the perfect opportunity to check it out.
With our big holiday to Dubai and the Maldives coming up, I really wanted to keep it casual and that’s what Hai Cenato is perfect for. Just good food and value. We started the night at the upstairs bar, The Drunken Oyster, with some delicious pink drinks to suit the occasion. A Cocchi Rosa with Aperol, grapefruit zest, rose petal and elderflower for me and a Costa Nostra with Rum, Amaro Montenegro and Palo Cortado for him. Cocktails are Italian- themed and ‘taptails’ or sparkling cocktails on tap are also available.
I’m a big fan of Valentine’s day and I dressed to fit the theme…also very pleased with my presents, a dozen red roses and an initial necklace. Mr S had very sweetly gone for an ‘S’ for SilverSpoon which I loved! After our cocktails we headed downstairs to the main dining room.
It’s a pretty intimate space and the red leather booths, black tables and window into the kitchen give it an New York-Italian style feel. Unlike Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred restaurant, City Social and Pollen Street Social, Hai Cenato is a place for an easy lunch or dinner. With it being right around the corner from us, I can imagine us popping in all the time!
For starters we shared some dishes from the selection of small plates with the dish above being my favourite of the night. Beautifully cooked octopus and squid sat on a bed of braised lentils with a delicious salty note of bacon and a touch of spice from green chilli salsa verde. It was true comfort food, the kind of dish that gives you a hug on a cold night and I loved the vibrant seafood themed plates too.
Our other small plate was seabass crudo with blood orange, lime, parsley and celery. A beautifully prepared and light dish and a pinch of salt perfected it for me.
I love pasta but we bypassed that course, having seen pictures of the pizzas, I knew that they’d be the real stars of the show. I’m not a big fan of Pizza Bianca but Mr S loved the guest pizza of the month by Tom Kerridge with ground spiced venison, Milano salami, gorgonzola dolcelatte, sorrel and lemon zest. For every one of these pizzas £1 goes to Hospitality Action Charity.
I’m quite boring when it comes to pizza and I just love a really good tomato and mozzarella pizza done well. Here the cheese is just the right level of gooeyness and the sourdough crust is crisp yet chewy. Pizza perfection! There’s no bread basket for the table (good thing, or bad thing?) leaving plenty of room to fill up on these pizzas, they’re pretty big and at £8.50 really good value for money. This is not just any pizza…this is a Jason Atherton pizza…
A perfect seasoned and wonderfully cooked gilthead bream to was our choice from the grill menu. I love whole cooked fish and I can imagine having this all the time as a healthy lunch, it was also perfectly complimented with confit potatoes, saffron, lemon and fennel. By now I was very full and pretty glad of the absence of bread basket and though my eyes were tempted by the idea of sharing a chocolate fondant on Valentine’s Day…I knew they were bigger than my stomach.
Instead we went ahead and ordered a cute ice cream cone from their selection at the deli counter, opting for my childhood favourite chocolate and mint.
Service was a little patchy as the restaurant had only been open for a week but I couldn’t fault the food or atmosphere. Expect to see a lot of Mr and Mrs Silver, Hai Cenato!
PIN FOR LATER:
2 Sir Simon Milton Square