Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Giaconda Dining Room

Sometimes I can be a bad friend. You know, the unreliable type. "Yes, let's definitely go for dinner", said I, earlier that week. A client lunch got in the way and I ended up boozing in the most excellent bar at Hix, and I dragged my poor friend there to join me. We both went home, pissed and hungry.

Luckily my friend gave me another chance and we rebooked our dinner at Giaconda Dining Room. Nestled among guitar shops, I knew already that it was a small place with only 32 covers, but I was still surprised when I walked in. The place is tiny; tables are close together and I was worried I'd be too loud.

For a £1 cover charge, we were brought some decent, crusty bread and some standard olives. As we perused the menu, I found it really difficult to decide what to choose, which is pretty standard for me. I contemplated having a raw, beefy meal with the carpaccio to start and the steak tartare for main, but it was a cold night and I needed something a little more nourishing.

The ceviche of salmon and seabass was buried under a mound of thinly sliced fennel, cucumber and chives. Dressed with lime and the merest hint of chilli, the fish was fresh and firm. The fennel was surprisingly tame in it's aniseed flavour and worked well with the cucumber. It was a refreshing start to the meal and left me wanting more.

My companion wrinkled his nose when I announced I would be having the braised tripe with chorizo and butter beans (top). It came in an earthenware dish with a comedy large spoon; the tripe was slippery with a bit of bite, and well flavoured by the chorizo and paprika. Butter beans bulked the dish out and added creaminess. The dish was the perfect size and was homely.

We decided to share a dessert of Crème Brulée as we were both verging on full. The top was perfectly crisp, not too thick and was pleasing when you cracked your spoon into it. The custard beneath was rich and orange flavoured. I wondered if I would finish my half but on first taste, I wolfed it up.

Service was sweet and unobtrusive. When we left I realised we'd been there for three hours, which is a fair bit longer than I'd usually spend on a weeknight dinner. I never felt I was being rushed, even when people were turned away as the restaurant was full. It might be testament to the excellent company, but it flew by.

All in all, good solid cooking. The menu has quite a few options I'd like to try out, so I will definitely be back. At £35 a head including service and wine, it's great value for this part of town.

The Giaconda Dining Room

9 Denmark Street
London WC2H 8LS

Tel: 0207 240 3334

Giaconda Dining Room on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

shayma said...

Lizzie, cant see any photos...or perhaps it is the IE 6.0 at work which is not working...

Fiona Beckett said...

Good to hear it's still on form. I really like Giaconda - your review reminds me to go there again, Lizzie

Mr Noodles said...

It's great to see somewhere where they let you relax and don't mind you staying 3 hours. So much better than those places staffed by 'clipboard-fascists' who need their table back in 2 hours.

shayma said...

a girl after my own heart, i wld have ordered carpaccio and steak tartare, too, perhaps on a day when it was less cold. the creme brulee looks fantastic, i like it when it's slightly blackened. and ceviche, a dream. it is rather lovely to be able to have a three hour meal on a weekday, it breaks up the week nicely. great write-up, Lizzie.

Helen said...

It really looks good and solid as you say. No messing about, just really tasty food and not stingy with it either. It's taken me a while to come round to tripe. I think Sichuan food has helped a lot with my conversion. I should try branching out.

theundergroundrestaurant said...

One of my favourite restaurants that I tried this year. The saffron risotto is to die for...

Douglas Blyde said...

I'm glad you fared better than me. Aesthetics clearly aren't exactly a priority here, though!

Greedy Diva said...

I love Giaconda too. If only they would open on weekends.

Laura Nickoll said...

A hard-to-come-by joint for good food, good atmosphere, and fair prices. Thanks for reminding me to return before too long.