Victoria is somewhere you go through and not dwell. Victoria Station, I have been through many times, when my trusty-old-friend Charing Cross has had enough for a day. But stepping out is an unknown, the times I can count on my hands. The step into uncharted territory is further mystified by the UFO-like Nova Victoria lurching over you as you exit the station, recent winner of the infamous Carbuncle Cup (for the worst building in 2017). Oafish as it might seem it can’t be worse than the monstrosity of the new entrance to Preston Railway Station! (Slow clap to AHR for dodging a bullet).
This new development has brought with it a flurry of restaurants, moving the whole of Soho with it. Hai Cenato is one of them, a Jason Atherton creation. I have not actually visited any of his growing empire, as they are mostly far out of my budget. Hai Cenato is more affordable though can still rack up if you’re feeling peckish. The interior feels a little bit of a mish-mash, you can almost call it an odd/quirky NY vibe though you’re immediately brought back to Victoria when you get a glimpse of the red UFO you just walked through. I particularly liked the chef caricatures on the feature wall, who will each concoct a guest chef pizza. Make a competition out of it! See how many you can name with your dining partner! Unfortunately, we did not go for the pizza created by Head Chef of the Fat Duck, Jonny Lake, because of the promise of black olives!
Confit lamb neck, spiced aubergine, ras el hanout, yoghurt & mint
Sadly the base was not crisp enough for my liking. I guess I’m being picky since it’s a NY Italian but I prefer my Neapolitan to my NY pizza. The dough sits between a Neapolitan and a thick doughy one but it’s not the best of both worlds! For those who like their pizza on the chewy side, this might be your idea of heaven but I’d rather just get a thick Domino’s. The base just needs to lean one way or the other. The flavours, however, are intriguing, though a little overpowered by the ras el hanout.
Corzetti, glazed beef shin ragu, tomato, sage, Berkswell
Outside of the pizza’s everything else is on the pricier side. For pasta, we love a bit of ragu, paired with the beef shin sounded amazing. I’ve never actually heard of corzetti though. Sadly I felt a bit let down by this dish. For me, the ragu was a little too intense, not cloying but incredibly rich on first taste. However, this would have paired nicely with a pasta with more bite, and more of it! With more substantial pasta the richness of the ragu could be contained better. The ratios just felt a little off.
Overall there’s a lot that could be liked at Hai Cenato, for me though, everything just needs a bit of a revamp to really work. I can’t imagine eating that many more times in Victoria and there’s a lot of sparkly new restaurants around it waiting to be tried. But a restaurant that makes me crave to eat at other restaurants and ask “what ifs” surely isn’t a good thing.
Address: 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, SW1E 5DJ
Telephone: 0203 816 9320
Mind The Gap:
Mon – Fri: (Lunch) 12pm – 2.30pm . (reduced menu) 3pm – 5.30pm . (Dinner) 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Sat – Sun: (Brunch) 11am – 3pm . (reduced menu) 3pm – 5.30pm . (Dinner) 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Panda ate, shot and left.