Hai Cenato

Restaurants, Italian Victoria
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Jason Atherton’s casual Italian-American joint, in Victoria’s new Nova development.

Hai Cenato calls itself a pizzeria. But actually, it’s EBP (everything but pizza) you should order. It’s food to kick back with. There’s even a joyously calorific twist on an ice-cream sandwich: a still-warm toasted brioche bun with silky, decadent salted caramel gelato inside.

The best two dishes showed off the kitchen’s pedigree. Hai Cenato is part of Jason Atherton’s empire, he of Social Eating House, Sosharu and so on. A delicate dish of seabass crudo (as in raw) came with shimmering morsels of blood orange, sprigs of dill and celery, cut mandolin-thin and on the diagonal. Someone’s got skills. Further proof: a tumble of freshly cooked corzetti (flat, round, embossed pasta discs) with a beautifully intense bolognese. On top: deep-fried sage leaves and fresh grated sheep’s cheese. Equally brimming with flavour – though the pasta could have had more bite – was a bowl of casarecce (short, freeform ‘twists’) with tiny, juicy clams; buttery, garlicky breadcrumbs; and slivers of bitter etrog (a lemon of sorts).

But, oh dear, the pizza. I’m like Meghan Trainor: all about the base. It should either be thin and crispy, its sole purpose to act as a vehicle for an avalanche of toppings; or deep, doughy and delicious, so moreish that you could – and should – eat it naked. Here, the bases were the worst of both worlds: thick but tasteless, the type where you leave all your crusts on the side. Toppings were fine, but not enough to save the show.

Happily, the vibe is laidback. In fact, of all the restaurants in Victoria’s spanking new Nova development, this has so far come the closest, with its rap-and-funk soundtrack and low lighting, to help diners forget the steel-and-glass surroundings. So if you’re with friends in SW1 and hankering for Italian, say Hai Cenato (‘have you eaten?’) and give it a whirl.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Hai Cenato
Contact:
Address: The Nova Building
77 Buckingham Palace Rd
London
SW1W 0QU
Transport: Tube: Victoria
Price: . Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £100.
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Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

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  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|10
2 people listening

Great “posh pizza”. Delicious comfort food and ideal for sharing too. Everything we ordered was tasty - particularly the bolognese!  It's quite dark and very noisy at lunchtime and would not necessarily recommend it for a business lunch much more a fun place to go with mates.


I didn't like it. I came with friends for lunch, inclined to look favourably upon the place but found the service spotty and forgetful, the food- a mixed bag, and worst of all, my double espresso came in tepid. When I asked the waitress to return it and see if they can try and brew a properly hot one please, she came back with the same one slightly re-heated.

tastemaker

Delicious food and some nice cocktails. It would've been five stars but the waitress forgot something from the order and I drank one of the worst cocktails in existence. It says it's butterbeer but don't believe it. Go for the white diamond - that's a winner. The pasta was good - definitely need to try the pizzas though - they looked so good. My boyfriend had the carrot cake and that was nice - the winning dessert was the chocolate fondant and pistachio ice cream. IT WAS AMAZING. I think it was a bit more expensive than it should've been... but it was really good food. (And there's a cocktail bar across the way with happy hour...)

tastemaker

As a resident in the neighbourhood, I've been quite intrigued to see how Victoria has seen an influx of eateries in the last few months. Having already tried one of the restaurants in this new NOVA area, I thought I'd make it a challenge to try all of them this summer. A perfect opportunity popped up when my aunt came to visit me this weekend. Fresh off her flight, I thought it best to just grab a quick bite nearby before letting her sleep off the jet lag. 


I'd heard some positive reviews of Hai Cenato and after a bit of research (and Instagram stalking!), it seemed like a good option for dinner. I was also intrigued by the fact that it was opened by Jason Atherton, who already has several restaurants and bars in Singapore, where I'm from. 


Between me and my aunt, we shared 2 pizzas and a small plate as a starter. She decided on the Grilled Octopus & Cornish Squid. This comes served on top of braised lentils cooked with cured bacon and with dollops of green chili salsa verde. I was surprised because I actually really don't like lentils but it somehow worked well in this dish. They are indeed quite plain to consume on their own but cooked with bacon, how could it not taste good? It paired well with the grilled seafood on top because of its texture and relatively mild taste. I thought the grilled octopus and squid were done really well! They weren't chewy, the exterior had a bit of a crisp from the grill, and the interior was soft and had a good bite. Definitely worth mentioning simply because it's a dish that got me to eat lentils when I don't even like them!


As the menu divides the pizzas into two sections; Pizza Rossa and Pizza Bianca, we decided to go for one of each. For the Pizza Rossa, we ordered the Homemade Fennel Sausage, Prosciutto, Stracciatella, Marjoram Gremolata. This was my favourite of the two but I found the meats were a bit too salty, I was chugging water all night after that! Even though there wasn't an excessive amount of meat on the pizza, each small bite added up. It was very flavourful though! I really enjoyed the stracciatella because it was deliciously creamy dolloped on top of the pizza after it was cooked and blended well with the tomato sauce base. 


Our second pizza came from the Pizza Bianca section and was, Taleggio, Mousseron mushrooms, caramelised onions, thyme and garlic. I liked this pizza because of its simplicity - each ingredient carried its own distinct flavour and texture but when combined wasn't overpowering in any way. The caramelised onions are worth mentioning because they were done so well! They had a soft texture that practically melts in your mouth and carried just the right amount of sweetness. As it was a pizza bianca, it had no tomato sauce base and was mainly replaced with a creamy cheese base. However, it wasn't too overpowering having that much cheese on the pizza, which made it easy to eat. 


I also really liked that the pizzas were sourdough, as this is my favourite type of pizza. They were baked well and thin so it doesn't fill you up too fast. The crust was great because each bite had a good chew to it and was tasty even eaten on its own. 


Overall, the service was good. We were seated immediately with our reservation and the host was friendly in doing so. Our waitress for the night was helpful and attentive, and didn't hover around too much but just the right amount to make sure we were enjoying our meal. In terms of the atmosphere, it started out nice when the music was at a good level but as the night went on, it seemed to grow louder, making it harder to converse with each other. 

tastemaker

My boyfriend and I are slowly working our way through the new restaurants in the new NOVA complex in Victoria (much needed due to Victoria's very limited dinner options!) and we decided to try this both being Atherton fans. Because of that we were probably expecting a bit more and although it was very nice I would never have guessed his name was behind it if I didn't already know. We ordered the Homemade Fennel Sausage, Prosciutto, Stracciatella, Marjoram Gremolata Pizza from the Rosso menu and the Confit Lamb Neck, Spiced Aubergine, Ras El Hanout, Yoghurt and Mint Pizza from the Bianco menu. They were both delicious but I think my issue with the whole thing is that there is a Franco Manca around the corner which is cheaper and better....

tastemaker

would have been nicer to hire better trained waiters, its a shame because their pizza is really delicious! sourdough base, with an option to add a truffle supplement (10 pounds charged for only a little shaving), but still top pizza! Sadly disappointed with their star bolognese pasta, the meat tasted old and just overly salty. The almond carrot cake with creme fraiche gelato won me over though! Beautiful taste, perfectly balanced! 


One of the worst restaurant experiences ever! We want to this restaurant with high expectations and knowing that Jason Atherton stood for exceptional food! What a false sense of security. The menu is a cocktail of mismatched ingredients and overpriced dishes, but that aside we were served undercooked Chicken, one of the worst steaks (sent back) and the vegetarian options were well below par. After complaining they did not even take the chicken off the bill! The highlight of the restaurant was the music they played and at nearly £100 a head a total disgrace. Please avoid!


Save your money !

Mediocre at best but high prices.

Will not return - ever.


I had the most incredible prawn starter fooled by prosciutto and fennel sausage pizza last night, great value too. Would highly recommend. Delicious cocktails in the Upstairs bar too.