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|Address:||15 Poland Street, London W1F 8QE|
|Tel:||020 3641 8334|
|Price: £48.00||Wine: £17.50||Champagne: £53.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Fri 12.15-2.30pm Mon-Sat 5.30-10.15pm|
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Vasco & Piero's Pavilion has been there for 40 odd years, anonymously squatting on the unlovely Poland Street. Synonymous with London's media scene, it's one of those places that advertising execs used to take folk for a roister-doister, “it's alright, we're not needed back at the office anytime soon, now how about that contract” lunch into afternoon into evening event to celebrate. And in all the times I've been in there, in that state, I've never remembered to ask about the name though…
The menu downstairs is set, something I'd be less bothered about if there were more than eight of us. Especially having drooled over the menu upstairs, with its extensive list of pastas and wonderful sounding dishes; lombetto, a cured loin of Umbrian pork, tortellioni of duck or seabass, fennel flavoured salamis, the list goes on…
Not having been there for a few years, I was looking forward to this. God knows why, but I went for a standard but unadventurous asparagus and mozzarella starter. Nothing special. It came drizzled with a beautifully fresh, zingy and fragrant basil oil but the trimmed asparagus felt like it hadn't been out of the fridge for long enough. I suppose it's partly my fault for ordering it way out of season.
If the starter was a bit of a let down, then the pasta course reminded me why I love good Italian food. Little pockets of silky smooth aubergine ravioli came with tooth sticking aubergine skin fried into tiny tasty splinters scattered atop the sun yellow pasta parcels. The room silenced until the pasta had vanished. The main of duck breast was served simply with green beans, great quality ingredients and lovely with a lipsmacking jus. A simple desert of baked ricotta was slightly spoilt by too sharp raspberries, but was in itself lovely.
Like Andrew Edmunds, The Ivy and a number of other little Soho gems, it hasn't changed much in years, and keeps going in such a cutthroat location because it gets the fundamentals right time after time. The chefs inspiration, and many of the ingredients, come from Umbria in central Italy. They cater to a local crowd who know the staff and each other and take the odd party, like us, and shoehorn them away in a downstairs room where they won't disturb the regulars. Not that I minded, it was perfectly pleasant, if a little like dining in a provincial hotel with it's light and forgettable decor. On thing to note about the upstairs is that the noise levels frequently get high. It's not somewhere for a quiet tete a tete (but ideal to tell someone some bad news..)