Any meal beginning and ending with globes of cheese cant help but be a very good thing. And on cold, squally nights, few cuisines feel quite as comforting as Italian classics. Babbo, a slender Mayfair Italian, delivers on both counts. That the restaurant does so with a far glossier mien than your typical pasta emporium, yet a quieter setting than its flashier neighbours, is all the more impressive in light of the home-spun hospitality it aims for. Babbo means Daddy, and the premises reflects a paternal warmth toward diners. Caramel walls hung with B&W father-and-son photographs, subtle Venetian glass features and crisp, white-clothed tables set the understated theme.
On to the food... For starters, our Carpaccio came tissue-thin, with a mustard sauce and caper dressing that amplified the beefs buttery saltiness. This dish was so delicate, it had to be scooped and scraped off the plate with spoons rather than redistributed to side plates. The Caprese salad starred a ball of silken burrata flown in from Campania that day. So substantial that we told the waiter we couldnt possibly finish it, it disappeared within seconds.
Babbos own big daddy, though, is its lasagne. Based on a 100-year-old recipe passed down by the chefs grandmother, the dish landed on the table with cheese still bubbling. It was rustic, full of meaty juices and pretty much perfect (although anyone intending to consume the entire portion alone should make sure their cardiologist hasnt gone skiing for the week...)
Full by the time mains arrived, they fell a little flat. Two sea bass dishes went practically untouched - one because it was rare as to be almost inedible, the other because of, well, the lasagne. A word on dessert: you may overlook the sweet burrata, thinking that one cheese ball per feast should be sufficient, but you would be wrong. The second burrata globe of the meal was frozen, more a mature second cousin to gelato than a cheese. Cutting off a small bite felt like pushing through a cloud, and it was just as yielding and surprisingly sweet on the tongue. Insubstantial yet memorable, the lingering taste carried us into the cold night that much warmer, wrapped in the blanket of a wonderful meal.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Modern Italian
Good for: First date; group dinner; pre-theatre; special occasion
Prices & Other Details at Babbo
Address: 39 Albemarle St, Westminster, London W1S 4JQ
Opening hours: Lunch: 12pm - 3pm, Dinner: 6pm - 11pm and Sunday and bank holidays: closed
Average price per person for a two-course meal without wine: £60
Price of bottle of house wine: £8
Price of glass of house wine: £29
Price of a glass of house champagne: £11
Price of a bottle of house champagne: £55
Private dining? No
Outdoor dining? No
Bar? Yes. Theres a small bar for a drink while you're waiting for your table
Best table: The quietest tables are right in the corner
Who goes? City slickers, cheese-lovers and those with cash to flash
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus