First of all, let’s get this straight: hotel restaurants in London are rarely destination eateries. It isn’t often that you’ll find yourself chowing down in an offshoot of a hotel lobby and thoroughly enjoying your meal. Saying that, there are of course, exceptions to this rule and Diciannove at Blackfriars’ Crowne Plaza has proven itself to be more than a mere breakfast buffet. Headed up by Locatelli-trained chef Alessandro Bay, the kitchen at Diciannove is rumoured to turn out some authentic Italian fare that goes beyond your standard hotel dining experience, so naturally we went down to try it out.
Venue and Atmosphere
Located opposite Blackfriars Station, the Crowne Plaza is primarily a hotel built for finance types working around the City of London, however the building is still grand from the outside, and an attractive setting for the meal.
Diciannove itself follows this theme – the interior is smart, sleek and businesslike, with comfy booths and an elegant bar boasting subtle mustard tones, complimenting the wooden furniture throughout. When we arrived, the restaurant was quiet (though this is often a given for a Tuesday night in any London spot), with only a few single diners assessing the menu, but that is oft the way of hotel restaurants.
Food and Drink
We dived into the menu, snacking on a basket of bread with olive oil and balsamic while we did so. Pastas, risottos, red meats and seafood are all present and counted for, so there is plenty of choice for every type of diner. Each dish cites its regional provenance, which is a nice touch and helps to demonstrate the breadth of the menu, which darts from one side of Italy to another.
For our starter we ordered pan fried Scottish scallops with celeriac puree and pomegranate reduction (£12.50) and fried calamari, garlic mayonnaise and sweet and sour sauce (£9.50). The calamari was crisp, and the sweet and sour was a particularly pleasant surprise, while the scallops were deliciously bouncy and flavoursome.
For mains we both opted for the spaghetti with fresh crab, chilli, garlic and parsley (£12.50/£17.00) in the larger size. This was definitely the highlight of the meal – served slightly al dente as it would be in Italy, it was garnished with plenty of crab and a simple but ultimately delicious sauce.
Satisfied and still sipping our pleasant bottle of house white (£24), we rather gluttonously ordered the Delizia al Cioccolato (£7) – a chocolate mousse served with a slice of chocolate salami - to finish off our dinner. This was perhaps a mistake on our part since we were both already full to the brim. Rich, dense and I’m certain an ideal dessert for a chocolate lover, it was just too much for us for our already tightening waistbands.
If you're in the mood for hearty Italian grub in the City, then Diciannove cuts right to the chase. Don't be put off by a lack of fellow guests on quieter nights of the week; for those looking to have a peaceful and discreet catch-up accompanied with pleasant food, the delicious pasta dishes and strong wine selection make for excellent dining companions.