You’d be forgiven for thinking that Bernardi’s has been opened for a while, it’s got that relaxed, easy going feel of a restaurant that knows what it’s doing and knows how to do it well. It was also, for a Wednesday night, surprisingly busy even for London.
Situated on the corner of Seymour Street and Seymour Place, the modern Italian restaurant is run by brothers Gabriel and Marcello Bernardi and their team – we tried to count how many waitresses and waiters there were, we didn’t manage it, but there were a lot. They’ve gone for an elegant but casual look, it’s the sort of place you could take your parents when they come to town, but also could easily drop in for a few drinks and cicheti after work.
Leather booths line the wall, whilst a mix of tables fill the rest of the restaurant, it’s neutral in design; pale greys, olives and stones create a calm atmosphere, whilst a striking, angular light fixture provide a soft, warm light.
Head chef Sabrina Gidda is cooking up a modern Italian menu which is divided into cicheti (your Italian amuse bouche), forno, antipasti, pastas, secondi and puddings. We started with our cicheti, deep fried, gooey pumpkin and gorgonzola arancini and a big portion of crisp courgette and herb fritti with a balsamic mayonnaise. We ate them with a round of Mattinieros, a much needed taste of summer on a miserable evening: freshly pressed English apples, sorrel, St Germain Elderflower topped up with prosecco.
A rich, creamy burrantina was offset by tart orange and purple beetroot, flaked almonds and basil. A generous portion of charred squid was served in a sweet tomato sauce with garlic, parsley and pepperoncino – you’ll need to order a round of bread to mop every last drop of sauce up. Next up we ordered the buttery, autumnal tarragon gnocchi with rabbit ragu (not the sort of tomato sauce you think of when you think ragu, but a proper Italian ragu made with braised meat) and small pieces of pancetta. The radicchio that arrived with the flank steak was very sharp to the point of being too bitter, but the polenta chips, thick chunks of golden goodness brought it back up.
The pudding menu is kept succinct, just three and ice cream – a raspberry panacotta was beautifully light and a wild berry semi-freddo however was a little average, compared to the rest of the meal it felt like it slipped a little at the pudding. We rounded off with an Amante, a mix of stellacello, Villa Zari, brandy and fresh grapefruit – we were told they were the most popular cocktail and two rounds down we could see why.
With full marks for service and atmosphere and delicious cichetti, Bernardi’s has definitely made itself at home and the neighbourhood is welcoming it with open arms.