Nestled on the south edge of Grosvenor Square, Avista Restaurant has an impressive Mayfair facade but a kitchen full of incredible Italian flavour. In my travels I’ve learned that Avista is derived from the root word “vista,” meaning a
“distant view or perspective; an extensive mental view as over a stretch
of time or a series of events.” In Italian, it translates directly to
‘at sight’ and I can definitely confirm that I’m ever so slightly in
love, even from the first sip.
Shaking off a wet week and handing our coats to the smiling staff, our Italian feast began beautifully with a glass of bubbles – as the best things often do in a 4-star hotel – and a selection of aperitifs. Savoury meringues sandwiched cheekily with a lightly creamed goat’s cheese, an intriguing whisper of crackle that I thoroughly enjoyed crunching and slivers of aubergine air dried with honey that melted on the tongue.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Avista, but my (very many) opinions
are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I
wouldn’t happily revisit.
As a gluten-free diner, it can often be hard to wander into a restaurant
and not have to surrender yourself to the inevitability of meat and
vegetables – especially in Italian and French restaurants famous for their fresh pasta and bread selection. Much to my surprise when I meekly explained my intolerance, our maitre’d Raphaele broke into a smile and told me it wasn’t a problem. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt – not eating a pasta dish in an Italian restaurant seems like exploring a winery but not drinking. Sacrilege.
We nibbled on a selection of leavened delights and a delightfully palate cleansing hors d’oeuvre of crab with mango and passion-fruit water ice whilst we perused the embossed menus. Gluten laden and non-gluten alike we dipped into the pure olive oil with relish (though without balsalmic much to the bemused confusion of our waiter). Every detail was considered – even the gluten free bread was toasted less on one side to retain a softer, more contrasting and porous texture.
With an intriguing al a carte menu full of fresh flavours and heavily
pescetarian in influence, mired in indecision I ended up surrendering myself to the
recommendations of Raphaele and the lovely chef Arturo with
delight. My better half took his blogging responsibilities very
seriously and explored the omnivorous sections with a thoroughness
befitting of a blog husband.
|Burrata con variazione di pomodori crudi e canditi, olio alle olive nere e basilico
Burrata, texture of raw and candied tomato, black olive oil and basil
Deceptively simple, my amazing Burrata starter was simply the highlight of my week (and the point that I realised that my camera simply wasn’t going to take good photos no matter how much I pleaded with it). A beautiful portion of fresh, unctious mozzarella encasing a creamy centre of heaven, it was served simply drizzled with olive oil and pepper. Each forkful was paired with a selection of fresh or candied tomato, basil sorbet or a soupcon of treacly balsamic.
Paired with the sommelier’s suggestion, a Italian 2013 Le Pianure Pinot Grigio, was a perfect complement to my light and flavoursome starter. (The mister was drinking diet coke, but we won’t talk of that abomination. And he wonders why I leave him at home sometimes…)
|Tartare di manzo battuta a coltello, salsa Caesar, tuorlo d’uovo e caviale di aceto balsamico
Hand-cut beef tartare, Caesar dressing, egg yolk and balsamic caviar
Better known for preferring his meals charcoaled, my erstwhile dining companion opted for the Beef Tartare, asking for the dressings and accoutrement to be served on the side. Declaring it to be lovely, and then falling head over heads for the whole capers “which made the starter bounce with flavour” he polished off every mouthful. Ever the food blogger, I swooped upon the accompanying mustard ice cream with glee. Sharp, rich and tangy, it was a fascinating play on flavour.
|Paccheri al pesto, crema di mozzarella di bufala, pomodori canditi e olive taggiasche (v)
Paccheri pasta with pesto, buffalo mozzarella cream, candied tomato and taggiasche olives (v)
Persuaded into an extra course, my gluten free pasta arrived in an artful arrangement of flavour. Bustling with the best of Italian sunshine ingredients – basil, olives and tomatoes – the addition of textural pine nuts, a base of moreish mozzarella cream, pinches of fresh basil and flakes of crisp salty cheese, it was everything your tastebuds could hope for. Paired with a glass of 2012 Piedmont Gavi di Gavi, each sip of intense citrus fruit flavours augmented the Italian classic.
Feeling nicely paced but rather full, I opted for the lighter mains option of Sea Bream, which is possibly the prettiest dish I’ve ever seen. Vibrant and fresh, the perfectly seasoned flesh was counterpointed by utterly immaculately crisp skin that broke at the barest pressure of fork tines. The sea bream totally overshadowed the delicately stuffed courgette flowers but provided a interesting texture contrast.
Just one more angle? Oh, ok then.
|Orata del Mediterraneo in padella, mousse di granchio e fiori di zucca
Pan fried Mediterranean sea bream, white crab mousse and courgette flowers
My meat-loving carnivore prounouced his medium-well beef fillet as the best he has ever tried. Several times. Perfectly cooked, it was garnished delicately with rock salt, beautiful fondant potatoes and stuffed baby green peppers with the ultimate level of char, whilst to the side a jug of port jus awaited liberal annointing.
|Filetto di manzo in padella, friggitelli, lardo, mandorle, patate fondenti e salsa al porto
Pan fried beef fillet, baby green pepper, lard, almond, fondant potato and port jus
With eyes definitely bigger than our appetites we waved away any suggestion of dessert until convinced to share a light yoghurt parfait, one of chef Arturo’s specials. Let me tell you now, it is impossible to say no to a beautiful Italian man offering you a sweet taste of summer. It was glorious, and despite earlier protestations we enjoyed every morsel before ordering a coffee to finish the evening in perfection and surprise petit four truffles.
There was no running anywhere that evening.
|Spumone ghiacciato allo yogurt, fragole candite, mandorle e
gelato al cioccolato bianco
Yoghurt parfait, candied strawberry, almond and white chocolate ice cream
Something to be savoured gently over a few hours, an evening at Avista is something that should be prescibed for all city weary souls needing a soupcon of Italian style. The decor is sumptiously elegant and flavours focus on fresh seasonal characters that made our tastebuds zing. Each plate was a work of art, evident with delicate touches and balances of the best ingredients without being fussy.
The restaurant is lovely mix of elegance and conviviality – everyone was welcomed with a smile and couldn’t want for anything. Avista, you have my heart.