Luciano at ME Hotel in The Strand: “This unpretentious Italian menu leaves you with a full stomach and great memories”
It wasn’t too long ago that we had visited ME Hotel’s restaurant Zela, which offered a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean flavours. In its place, Gino D’Acampo’s Luciano has emerged with a traditional Italian offer, accompanied by a huge – perhaps even overly extensive – list of wines, drinks and signature cocktails.
Although the spirit of the new venture is without a doubt different from that of its predecessor, the interior design still preserves that “central London aesthetic”: ample sofas and flamboyant decor, paired with a rather upbeat selection of pop remixes.
After being walked to our table, we explored the signature cocktail menu. Goodfellas was an interesting risk that crosses the line between aperitivo and cicchetti. The bourbon-based blend, mixed with Ancho Reyes liqueur, contained an unexpected pincho of mozzarella and pepperoni, which could have been a better choice if enjoyed outside of the drink. The Fumoso Old Fashioned, on the other hand, was the exact opposite: not only was it balanced in flavour, but it also had a great smoky kick and was presented wonderfully.
As mentioned before, Luciano’s à la carte menu has plenty to offer, from cicchetti to antipasti, insalata, tartare, pasta, risotto and Neapolitan-style pizza, with a seventh section dedicated to meat, fish and dalla terra (from the earth) dishes – plus the sides. We were pretty pleased, however, to see that the antipasti and the tartare portions weren’t too big, so we could save room to try the more carb-heavy plates. First, we went for the pan-fried scallops, perfectly cooked with a vermouth butter sauce on the side. The tuna tartare – recommended to us – was absolutely delicious: the mustard and egg mixture with the capers and pepper made this a very refreshing and tangy starter.
We skipped the salad to go straight into the pasta and pizza part of the menu. When it came to the former, our eyes couldn’t resist the image of black truffle gnocchi with wild mushrooms, which didn’t disappoint, either in texture or in flavour. It’s a great romantic dish for fans of this sought-after ingredient. The Salsiccia Calabrese was our choice for pizza – consisting of a really spicy meat on top of a layer of mozzarella and a quite thin base, it’s an easy favourite.
The next, and last, plate was the star of the evening, Aubergine Parmigiana, the very embodiment of everything that works in Italian cuisine: beautiful ingredients served up with simplicity (with lots of parmesan cheese on top).
As we sipped our last drops of Pinot Nero (Trentino) and Nero d’Avola (Sicilia), the desserts arrived. It wasn’t too hard to pick one, as the tiramisu is always a must at any restaurant that calls itself Italian. The very generous portion of dolci was extremely light and contains classic layers of coffee’d sponge fingers, mascarpone and powdered chocolate – a total winner. We also tried the Bombolini this time around; these doughnuts, filled with raspberry cream, are maybe not the flashiest of desserts, but they are well-made nonetheless, and very easy to eat.
The ME Hotel has gained a solid culinary contendor. Luciano’s unpretentious menu leaves you with a full stomach and great memories.
Maria Dolores Barrios
Photos: Diogo Cruz
To book a table at Luciano, 336-337 The Strand London WC2R 1HA, call 020 8852 3186 or visit their website here.