‘It feels a bit like we’re in a Woody Allen movie,’ I mused as I sipped my martini and basked in the warm glamour of Il Pampero.
Maybe it was the jolly jazz tootling away in the background that made me feel like I was on a movie set or the romantic mood the place put me in when I stepped through the chic glass doors and was greeted by a duo of smiling doormen.
The hot new Belgravia spot, within the boutique Hari hotel, oozes sophisticated cool.
Thanks to famed British interior designer Tara Bernerd, the furnishings are a feast for the eyes.
Think advant-garde art meets Art Deco, while Italy has a dalliance with New York in the corner.
Monochrome tiles line the floor and quirky portraits of Victorian characters wearing odd gimp-like masks add an air of playfulness.
The white-suited Italian waiters serve up a good dose of charm and I quickly feel at ease in this jewel-box of a place.
Furthering the feeling of romance was the cosy leather-clad both I’d been placed in with my friend Nick.
‘A little amuse bouche for you here,’ a jovial waiter said as he presented us with a selection of Italian meats and salami slices.
Hearing the staff interact with the other customers in the place was quite beautiful. They appeared to be truly proud of the place they were commandeering.
Reassuringly, an Italian family sat in front of us, eight of them taking over one of the larger tables. They’d clearly already been here before – despite it only being open a few weeks – and it appeared they were back for more.
‘The food must be good,’ I thought.
While nibbling on a slither of sausage and melt-in-the-mouth prosciutto ham, I perused Il Pampero’s menu.
There were so many delicious things to choose from!
After much deliberation, I went with an artichoke salad to start and the more unusual choice of Venetian calf liver for main.
I’d had a bad experience with liver after my uncle made me a rather metallic-tasting one as a child and I hadn’t been back for seconds since.
But could Il Pampero convert me?
My friend Nick went for a meat-loaded duo of beef carpaccio followed by a clay-baked shoulder of lamb.
On the drinks front, the negronis at this Italian gem are a must-try. There are five to choose from, each having a completely different taste to the other.
It wasn’t long before our rather colossal portions of food arrived. The artichoke salad was bursting with flavour, thanks to a bed of crispy rocket layered with Pecorini cheese and mint dressing.
Nick’s carpaccio was wafer-thin and delicately got destroyed forkful by forkful.
After spending quite some time working our way through the generous starters our equally generous-sized mains arrived.
The clay-baked lamb was wheeled over on a white-clothed tray. In a rather theatrical manner, the waitress cracked a layer of clay and wrestled out the lamb to serve.
My liver didn’t get quite the same introduction but the dish was quite a site to behold nonetheless.
The steaming hot stew looked thoroughly appetising – a world away from my uncle’s liver recipe that had once left me feeling a little queasy and green.
I was instantly converted after one mouthful, with the tender meat infused with a sweetness from the wine and onion jus. I breathed a sigh of relief, after realizing my risky menu choice had paid off.
The bread at Il Pampero – a mix of focaccia, crusty sticks and spinach loaf – is divine and we tore into in as we went along, using it to mop our saucy plates clean.
Luckily we’d skipped lunch that day and we had a pinch of room left for pudding.
Nick opted for his favourite tiramisu while I went for a raspberry sacher.
Being the playful place that it is, Il Pampero has an ice cream version of a tiramisu. A little jug of piping hot coffee is poured into the centre hole of a creamy round of ice cream and sponge. The whole thing melts into a volcanic eruption of sweetness, with spoons required to shovel up the mess.
We were willing shovellers.
The raspberry desert was a little different to how I thought it would be – some of the Italian menu items require a little deciphering – but the choclate and berry layered chunks hit the spot.
It was difficult to leave the warmth of Il Pampero behind but eventually we exited our corner booth.
Our film scene was over.
Wrapped up in our coats, we bid farewell to the doormen and sauntered into the darkness.
Mamma Mia, Il Pampero is quite the feast! A new love for liver – it can’t be?
Il Pampero is located at 20 Chesham Place, Belgravia, London SW1X 8HQ.
To make a reservation visit www.ilpampero.com or call 020 3189 4850or email firstname.lastname@example.org.