Tuesday 4 January 2011

Tempo, Mayfair

Pappardelle with wild boar, chestnuts & parmesan

A skilled Japanese chef in an Italian neighbourhood restaurant in Mayfair? My interest was sufficiently piqued.

Yoshi Yamada has trained in L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Japan and Michelin starred restaurants in various parts of Italy. He now brings his deft hand to this appetizing Italian fare at Tempo on Curzon Street.

The decor, like the clientele, is smart and stylish - turquoise velvet chairs are neatly positioned, adding a splash of vibrant colour to light floorboards, taupe walls and long, rectangular windows looking onto the well-heeled streets. Upstairs is a stunning bar area which is well worth a visit in its own right - along with other diners, my companion - The London Foodie - and I sojourned for a cocktail there after dinner. The Rococo wall, high ceilings, luxurious velvet sofas and opulent fit out make this a fabulous spot for a secluded late night drink.

The menu features an alluring selection of cicchetti (Venetian small plates, ranging from £2.25 - £3.75), carpaccio (£8.75-£9.75),  antipasti (£6.50 - £12.75), pasta and risotto (£9.00 - £11.00, or £20.50 for the tagliatelle with Tuscan white truffles), pesce and carni (£15 - £19.75) and dolci (£5.50 - £7.00). Much appeals and it's hard to choose...

Selection of cichetti: arancini di funghi selvatici, bruschetta di peperoni; crostino di gamberetti; crostini di lenticchie and brushetta di peperoni

We start with a selection of the cichetti, and we go for everything they've got. The golden arancini di funghi selvatici (fried risotto balls with wild mushrooms and mozzarella) are lovely and crispy on the outside, but I find the flavour sadly bland. Everything else is good - bruschetta di peperoni, with shiny red slivers of sweet roasted peppers atop a creamy burrata pugliese; crunchy crostino with plump shrimp, glistening cavolo nero and just the right hit of garlic; crostini with Umbrian lentils and salty, creamy pancetta; and bruschetta with layers of fatty, spicy Calabrian pork sausage. While I think the rest of the menu is fairly priced, particularly for this neighbourhood, the cichetti seem steep in comparison, notwithstanding the quality of the ingredients - £3.50 for one arancini, and up to £3.50 for a single crostini. 

A highlight is the insalata di polpo (reasonably priced at £3.75), a thick, crisp tentacle of seared octopus with thin slices of tart Granny Smith apple, flat leaf parsley and bright jewels of pomegranate.

Insalata di polpo

Fritto di calamari and bianchetti - squid & whitebait

Deep fried squid and whitebait (£8) are well seasoned, crisp and hot, with just a light, non-greasy smattering of batter.

Manzo - Scottish beef, hazelnuts and parmesan

The swordfish or salmon carpaccios might have been good choices given the Japanese chef at the helm, but instead our Scottish beef carpaccio (£8.75) did not disappoint. Pink slithers of flavoursome beef were littered with smashed hazelnuts, peppery rocket and the bite of shaved parmesan cheese.

Tagliolini with fresh Cornish crab, dill and lime

My generous twirl of taglioni with fresh, sweet Cornish crab, dill and lime has an elegant balance of delicate flavours and is certainly enjoyable - even if I would have preferred more of a toothsome bite to the pasta (£10.75).

But for a robust, wintery dish, it's hard to go past The London Foodie's meaty mound of pappardelle with chunky wild boar ragu, chestnuts and parmesan (£8.25). A gorgeous dish.

Fish stew

Pork belly with olive oil mash

My fish stew is a delectable, soupy bowl of white fish, prawns and clams in a light tomato sauce (£17.50). The London Foodie enjoys his attractive looking, fatty pork belly with smooth olive oil mash (£18.00).

Dark chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream

Lemon tart

Which brings us to dolci. My chocolate fondant is a glorious, gooey, chocolately delight. The lemon tart which comes recommended by our waitress, oozes a fresh, lemony zing with a crunchy, creme brulee-like caramalised top, and an excellent pastry base.

Cocktails in the beautiful upstairs bar

Tempo has some hot competition among the ranks of Italian restaurants which have taken London by storm in the last year or so. However, I believe it can stand its ground firmly among them. It's a restaurant of both style and substance, and well worth adding to your culinary to do list.

Tempo, 54 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8PG (Tel: 020 7629 2742)

Greedy Diva was a guest of Tempo.

Tempo Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. WOW the food looks amazing: i love arancini and all the starters...but i never heard the word cichetti before. probably is dialect!
    I need to try it absolutely. It's more than one year I say so!

  2. I'm really getting big into my Italian food, and this sounds right lovely.

  3. Linguina - it's really lovely, and I thought it only got better after the starters/cicchetti

    Lizzie - I love my Italian. I'm so excited by some of the great new Italian places which have opened in London over the past year or so.

  4. I really like the sound of the pasta (both crab and boar - two of my favourite sauce ingredients) in particular, and the price seems pretty decent, esp considering the location.

    I'm with you on the steep pricing of the cicchetti, although this is fairly standard across London I think. Probably to do with the labour involved in assembling them.

    It's interesting about the chef, but then I saw a lot of Italian joints in Japan. There is something quite similar in the respective food philosophies (if not the results) in both countries. There is real respect for the raw ingredients.

  5. Loved Tempo, but the best thing for me was definitely the company!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  6. The Grubworm - yes, I agree that the 2 food cultures (Japanese and Italian) seem to work well together!

    Luiz - Aww. Me too!

  7. All I can say is...try Tempo!
    Absolutely fabulous.

    My new hot favourite to eat, and the bar, bar snacks and cocktails are absolutely decadent and very well priced.
    My favourite is the expresso martini.

    This is the best non- membership bar in Mayfair by far.

  8. Amazing pictures. I am glad that there are such good restaurants in the city as well as there are many good hotels in Mayfair


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