Bernardi's restaurant review
It’s always nice to find a good Italian in your neck of the woods, and Bernardi’s is just that – a good Italian. But not a great one. This Marylebone venture from directors the Bernardi brothers (of Italian origin, but raised in Melbourne) is stylish and high quality, if a little generic. It’s what you might expect from a pair that made their names in advertising and interior design. Pop in from for a bowl of pasta, or a few nibbles from their ‘cicchetti’ menu (snacks, served all day) and you’ll leave happy and full, though without your world having been rocked.
The decor is unassumingly beige, with dark wood tables, comfortable leather seats and a few Fellini-esque black-and-white prints on the walls. The music is set just low enough that you can’t quite make out what it is. Service is attentive but not intrusive. It’s all, you know, absolutely fine.
The food, also, delivers just enough – and at unfrightening prices considering the affluence of the area. Arancini (deep-fried risotto balls filled, in this case with salty gorgonzola) had a firm texture but not much flavour beyond the cheese. The mini ‘pizzetta’ wasn’t quite thin and blisteringly scorched enough to make it better than bread topped with tasty prosciutto. The heap of parsley and caper salad bundled on top of a (usually salad-free) Piedmontese classic veal ‘tonnato’ (sliced veal in tuna mayonnaise) was fresh and zesty, but obscured the flavour of the delicately sliced meat beneath. Veal and fennel sausage pappardelle – with satisfying slivers of shaved parmesan matching the tender ribbons of pasta – was scoffable, but missing the fennel hit that would really make it memorable.
There are plenty of places to chill out at Bernardi’s, including a lounge-y area downstairs, with sofas to sink into while you work your way through the four negronis (£9-£10.50) on the cocktail menu. This is the place to call at when you’ve either got a serious hankering for good old-fashioned Italian carbs, or you’re planning a business meeting you very much hope will turn into a boozy three-hour lunch (a good wine list has a fair few bottles between £20 and £27). Bernardi’s could hardly offend anyone, in fact. But it’s still miles away from that simply perfect place in the Tuscan hills serving pure sunshine on a plate. Rather, it’s a good Italian off Oxford Street.