SquareMeal Review of
Jason Atherton’s ninth London restaurant forms the buzzing centrepiece of the shiny new Nova development near Victoria station. It’s not easy to locate (take one of the passages off Victoria Street or Buckingham Palace Road), but once inside you’ll find a slickly designed, noisy space lined with plate-glass windows and a wall of chef caricatures that’s proving popular with restaurant nerds. Like Soho’s Social Eating House, Hai Cenato (‘have you had dinner?’ in Italian) is overseen by chef Paul Hood. It’s inspired by Atherton’s favourite wood-fired pizzerias in New York, although the sour-dough pizzas here are made with British-milled flour and London-made mozzarella (every month a chef mate of Atherton’s will do a pizza topping in aid of charity Hospitality Action – starting with Tom Kerridge’s spiced venison with salami and Gorgonzola). But there’s much else besides, from pasta and risottos to small plates and larger grills, all of it done to Atherton’s usual high standards. Confit guinea fowl and Barolo risotto with pancetta and Parmesan keeps the rich flavours in check with bitter radicchio; a beautifully cooked whole gilt-head bream stuffed with saffron, lemon and fennel sings of the Mediterranean; lamp rump comes deliciously rubbed with garlic and anchovy. A side order of braised cavolo nero with a hot kiss of chilli almost steals the show – though the dish most destined for signature status is salted caramel ice cream sandwiched in a brioche burger bun. With pretty much all-day opening seven days a week, a first-floor cocktail bar (The Drunken Oyster), and decent choice under £30 on the Italian-led wine list, Hai Cenato is a brilliant all-purpose arrival in restaurant-starved Victoria. Sure, it feels rather corporate (and the staff’s ultra-clean vintage-style band T-shirts look very inauthentic) but this is cooking with real heart and soul.