Allow me to make a confession; perhaps I am in the majority on this one. The past eighteen months have induced a lot of misery and hardship for many, yet the economic clouds have a silver lining of sorts.
I doubt I am alone in heralding the shelter of moderated dining. Let’s be clear, haute cuisine is to be revered and respected and its status maintained, but if this is to happen then save such meals for dinner or ‘all-day’ lunches.
At lunchtime restraint is tough on the part of the restaurateur, the truth is many people – in particular those who need to be productive in the afternoon – do not want an involuntary lesson in advanced French gastronomic vocabulary or Japanese-Iranian fusion cooking.
In happier times lunchtime at Fino’s would require a reservation, not so now. Prime location for the property industry will ensure that half of its tables are occupied, but that still means that the other half aren’t. The staff do not laze about twiddling their thumbs, they fill up two-third full water glasses to appear busy. The ringmaster is the old man himself, credit to him, his style is undeniable, our being deeply immersed in conversation he swaggers up to the table (in thick Southern Italian accent) “I know you’re busy talking but...” apparently he cares.
Starters arrived promptly, which does tend to make me wonder. The prawns were tasty, I think, they had been drowned (not easy to do to a prawn) in a sauce that smacked of eighties prawn cocktail sauce. Yes the accompanying salad was aesthetically pleasing, and yes the texture of the prawns was excellent, but hang on, I have been duped into eating the world most cringingly clichéd starter. Bastards.
As I steamed with indignation I scrubbed my palate and alleviated the trauma with a glass of red that was rather pleasant which belied its modest price. I was left alone for a minute and considered the menu; pedestrian if the truth be told, solid staples were there, but nothing new, perhaps an indictment on the patrons from the nearby offices.
Mains stuck to the straight and narrow, I succumbed to an ‘old favourite’ of mine which is childishly memory evoking. You go through life scorning those older than you for being sentimental and then you catch yourself acting in the same fashion, devastating really. Milanese con Spaghetti did for me, it satisfied me in the way that it should. Not enough veal, greasy crumbs served with over cooked pasta in a bland sauce, just the way I remembered it and I dare to say it should be. Across the table arrived a Rib-eye steak - my favourite cut which I impressed myself by resisting - in my attempts to glean an appraisal I was offered a few non-committal adjectives. To the eye it appeared dry, but no such comment was passed, both mains induced the interplay of quality and quantity to flicker in my mind but nothing pithy materialized.
The ringmaster interpreted two clean plates as being indicative of two contented punters, he was close enough.
He had orchestrated the whole thing. The smells maraud, serving to aggravate appetites; the barmen are unusually old for this country, the rustic décor combine to entice and sooth simultaneously.
Moderate in almost every respect, just what I would want for lunch.
3.5 prawns out of 5
Fino's, Mount Street, SW1