Sparrow Italia, Mayfair

The Kensington & Chelsea Review team get all a’flutter over Sparrow Italia in Mayfair…

AJ McCloud, executive chef of the Noble 33 hospitality group was formerly a fitness trainer, skilled in kinesiology. Ironic, really, because dining at the Mayfair outpost of his restaurant Sparrow Italia, was an exercise in nothing more than unbridled decadence, after which I couldn’t have done a star jump if my life depended on it. Sparrow has flown over from Downtown LA, where it’s feathered quite the nest in Hotel Figueroa. Its cuisine is billed as ‘coastal Italian’, with a focus on the south; however, this is more of a US buzzword for above-and-beyond-red-sauce eateries, because geographically the menu is charmingly all over the place, with the likes of cacio e pepe (hailing from Rome), Milanese (from, well, roundabout Milan), and some tartare and ceviche which feel vaguely SoCal, with slivered hamachi and sprinklings of ponzu.

We could nitpick about this, and internally scream at the menu prices – wagyu, caviar, liberal truffle drownings, Mayfair: bring the serious plastic, darling. But, from being shown to our seats in an alcove with teal-velvet banquettes, dressed with hanging greenery and a potted olive tree, to polishing off the last of our brûléed espresso martini (a divine touch, and enjoyable bit of table theatre), we found everything more fabulous than at-fault.

Staff flutter about topping up glasses and landing plates with ninja discretion – unless you need something, for which they’re all ears – a bottle of Sicilian Grillo is fresh and fragrant, and the portions that arrive make you wonder if the chef is secretly your concerned grandmother. A trio of waddling meatballs, pooled in pomodoro and dolloped with ricotta offer immensely comforting bites of marango beef and veal; Murgian lamb is pliant and pinked; and the Milanese, spread with tomato and thick sheets of provolone, is a beast of a thing – I conquered it, and my only regret is that I didn’t make it to the dessert menu: an enthralling read of zeppole doughnuts, citrus olive-oil cake and cannoli. We foraged around in the seasonal truffle menu too, and pane al tartufo had fresh focaccia topped with generous dollops of truffled ricotta and a windfall of truffle shavings.

You might still need a steady hand for the bill, but there’s no feeling short-changed, in fact, we left far denser than when we’d arrived, plus the food is of the joyful gather-round kind, and staff genuinely seem to want you to have a good time. The promise of a future bowl of meatballs; burratas and a formaggio platter of smoked, aged and truffled things; and apple-mignonette-spiked oysters – plus the chance to fully experience the burnished downstairs bar and the upstairs fumoir terrace – makes re-booking a very real propspect, although, Mr McCloud, I will eventually need your personal-training services… Sparrow Italia, 1-3 Avery Row, London, W1K 4AJ

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