When visiting Mayfair’s Pasticceria Marchesi – the sweet, petite designer dessert boutique owned by the Prada group – you should forget everything you think you know about panettone. Available all year round, like in Italy (not just for Christmas, like here), Marchesi’s version, made with a sourdough starter in a recipe that’s over half-a-century old, is one of the café’s signatures. It was good enough to make you love panettone even if you’ve never even liked it before: the sweet Milanese bread was fluffy and delicately perfumed with gems of candied orange peel and sultanas plumped in booze.
Another signature, the vanilla-custard-based torta aurora, had that same impossible weightless quality while also being lavishly decadent. The hot savoury dishes that you can buy at lunchtime also excelled, though they do start at £18 (we liked the golden saffron sautéed risotto, with its Milanese-style crisped edges).
But while we were braced for Mayfair prices, the bill truly exceeded our expectations, and not in a good way. A cup of coffee starts at £6 (we were told it’s by Illy, which is lovely, but hardly special – you can buy it in most supermarkets). A single candied chestnut smaller than a golf ball costs £6.50 (good but not nearly-seven-quid good) and wedges of cake kick-off at £11. Still, for seriously superior all-year-round panettone, you may just think it’s worth it.