If it wasn’t printed on the receipt, you’d never guess that this attractive all-day diner is actually the restaurant for the chainy Park Plaza Waterloo hotel next door. I guess you can’t blame ’em; hotel restaurants tend towards sheeny, homogenous mediocrity, and Florentine is an unexpected treat.
For a start, the interior is snazzy with a capital S. There are leather banquettes and other mid-century-style furnishings. There’s a goldenly mottled up-lit wall. The dining room is sectioned off from the reception by a giant chainmail screen. It’s one of the most upscale-New York-looking joints I’ve visited in London in a while, and genuinely vibey, even on a Wednesday evening.
The giant menu is pan-European à la carte – with a dedicated flatbread section, for some reason – plus a few larger sharers, including a perturbing-sounding ostrich egg full english for four. A snack-sized aubergine and mozzarella piadina (a kind of Continental quesadilla) was smoky and fleshy, but no match for a main-sized flatbread topped with Tuscan sausage and stilton. It was a bit too crisp for my taste, but practically hummed with muscly, earthy flavours.
Even larger was a veal milanese, which almost breached both sides of the plate. It was excellent: crisp-fried on the outside, tender within. An Italian café staple done superbly. Venetian doughnuts were another fried success, pillowy and practically engorged with boozy marsala cream. If Florentine was a standalone joint it’d all be rather impressive. That it’s part of a slightly soulless hotel gets it serious kudos.