There’s more to Wimbledon than just a fortnight of tennis – there are some pretty chic places to eat, too. Cent Anni is one of the latest arrivals. The local Italian has opened on the former Cau site, transforming not only the food offering from high-street steak to southern European grub, but also the dining room from dimly lit and masculine to elegant, bright and summery.
The new venture is the brainchild of Raymond de Fazio, whose other restaurants include Café Med in St John’s Wood and MK Bar & Grill in South Kensington. The Cent Anni recipe is similar, and it works: classic Italian cooking served in a contemporary and inviting setting.
Let’s start with the surroundings. Oak flooring, a soft cream and pale-green colour palette, comfy leather seating, giant flower-filled vases and an impressive skylight make for an instantly appealing feel, with bare tables and an open kitchen preventing things from feeling too formal.
The menu, meanwhile, features pastas, risottos and sunny-sounding assemblies such as balsamic-grilled fillet steak salad with peaches, feta and rocket, and line-caught yellowfin tuna with cannellini beans, red onion, cherry tomatoes and lemon.
We were immediately intrigued by the starter of beef carpaccio with parmesan ice cream, and ordering it turned out to be the best decision of the night as it was by far the most accomplished dish we tried, contrasting both temperature and taste – the salty tang of the ice cream highlighted the full flavour of the beef.
Nothing else we tried compared to this; it was all nice enough without ever really wowing. Our other starter, a seafood sharing platter, delivered on its promise of jumbo prawns, seared tuna, chargrilled calamari and smoked salmon, but none of it tasted of very much.
A side order of Parmesan potatoes (Cent Anni’s Italian interpretation of dauphinoise) would also have benefitted from some generous seasoning. Lamb cutlets were better – perfectly cooked, blushing meat with a lovely chargrilled flavour – and served with crunchy broad beans, minty courgette bites, pesto and a squeeze of lemon: refreshing, light and indulgent.
Staff are knowledgeable and attentive (we should have followed their advice that the panko-crusted calf’s liver be served medium, not medium rare) while there are a dozen wines by the glass on the global wine list, plus well-made cocktails. Wimbledon locals seem to think they have a winner on their doorstep – the place was buzzing on our Wednesday night visit.