When the Michelin-starred restaurant at Bonhams closed, there was much hand-wringing from its high culture, carefully coiffed clientele (the kind of crowd where if you sneezed, 15 crisp hankies would come to your rescue, at least three of them monogrammed). They needn’t have panicked. The food at Emilia is a Savile Row cut above anything you’d expect from a restaurant that’s effectively part of an auction house (it has its own entrance; the loos are shared). From the crew behind Clipstone and Portland, the modern Italian menu is compact and confident: just three to four dishes for first, pasta or main courses, plus a few more antipasti.
Some of it is better-than-a-Botticelli good. Like what appeared to be a giant spring roll, its crisp pastry stuffed with silky, fatty tendrils of pig’s trotter. On its own, it might have been too rich, but it had been thoughtfully set over a pile of al dente, leek-embroidered lentils. Or a lighter dish of tuna carpaccio under layers of supple romano peppers and tangy shallots, the crunch of almonds and the fragrant texture of firm, good-quality green olives. Then, later: a creamy, herb-flecked rabbit ragù, the meat so soft you could suck it through your teeth.
There was an over-salted halibut: this we can forgive. But despite other tables being free, we were initially given a table on the ground floor, a narrow utilitarian space so devoid of ambiance it was like eating in an office. So do insist, as we did, on either the upstairs dining room, a place of candlelight and chatter or, better yet – if weather permits – among the starched linen and pale parasols of the elegant outside courtyard.