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Italians in Mayfair are like fried chicken shops – there’s one on every street, and locals visit them when they lack the imagination to go anywhere else. The opening of a new one, then, shouldn’t create too much excitement, but on paper this one’s a bit different: the chef is from Japan.
That’s not as surprising as it sounds – the Japanese love high-end Italian food. The result should be dishes that benefit from the Italian insistence on the best seasonal ingredients coupled with the Japanese knack for presentation (to briefly resort to national stereotypes). Tempo achieves this, but only up to a point.
The room itself is actually two rooms, divided a bit awkwardly down the middle, although the big windows and quirky lighting relax things a bit. Our hopes were raised to almost unsatisfiable levels by the basket of bread that immediately appeared on our table – fennel grissini, focaccia as light as Victoria sponge and brittle rosemary flatbread, served with a dish of grassy olive oil.
The pan-Italian menu read beautifully in its simplicity. The best dishes we tried were from the cicchetti (small plates) section, including crostini di N’duja, with chilli-laced Calabrian pork sausage; and a crostini di lardo, draped with a chiffon-thin slice of seasoned fat that merely whispered of its porcine origin before melting on the tongue.
A main of sea bream with caponata was that and no more – a simple, warm Sicilian salad of aubergine and tomato with a perfectly crisped piece of fish. However, another of tagliolini with Cornish crab, dill and lime was just too dainty for its own good, and the crab was in such fine strands it was hard to taste.
We looked at descriptions of other dishes with envy – quail salad, dandelion and pancetta, listed under antipasti, and venison carpaccio with pickled summer vegetables caught the eye.
We then had a bit of a wait for a dessert menu, but a berry tart picked things right back up, despite the somewhat naff oversized plate it came on. The pastry was delicate, the berries in tip-top condition and the scoop of raspberry sorbet on the side a sublime burst of summer fruit.
Tempo is pretty decent value for this part of Mayfair, and the wine list draws mainly from Italy, staying within sensible price limits. Service, however, doesn’t quite achieve the highest levels: the unseen crumbs on our table were subjected to the usual wipe-away, but after paying our bill we walked out without a farewell, no staff member in sight.
, (/). . .