It’s always fun to return to a restaurant you haven’t been to in a while to see what, if anything, has changed. Due Veneti (Two Venetians, translated into English) used to be a regular spot for me about a decade ago, when I would come multiple times a month with my Venetian friends and then-boyfriend (also Italian). Since the break-up, the frequency with which I’ve dined here has dropped over time and I was curious to try it again after so many months or (possibly) years.
The basics haven’t changed at all: I was pleasantly greeted in Italian (the whole staff speaks Italian, which makes it feel like I’ve been taken back to Italy – I love that), and shown to a comfortably-sized, white linen-covered table with comfortably padded, beautiful wooden seats from which I could appreciate the exposed brickwork and rustic-refined decor. The guests, by the way, during a weekday lunch are comprised predominantly of businessmen having business meetings over lunch, although in the evenings and weekends this is more balanced with locals and tourists who have taken a detour from nearby Oxford Street. This hasn’t changed either.
Upon being seated I was asked if I would like a prosecco, or perhaps some bread and olives – the latter to which I said yes – and began to peruse the menu. They have an interesting concept for their menu: with the exception of a couple of dishes which have supplements, each dish is listed without price and instead their pricing is structured in a way which encourages you to taste and eat a larger variety of dishes: one course is £16.50, two courses are £26.50, three are £33.50 and four courses are £37.50. Presented with such a menu, couldn’t possibly have less than three courses, could I?
I opted to have a seafood-based lunch, and chose to start with the crab and lobster bisque. It was tasty and surprisingly not too salty, and you could taste the fresh crab… but I was concerned about how incredibly fast it came out. For practical purposes I’m sure it was likely made that morning, but I would love to think it wasn’t microwaved warm. It was, however, served beautifully and, like all their dishes, in their signature plates with logo (below).
The next dish I was particularly excited about, because the table next to me ordered it and it looked divine: the fresh black ink tagliolini pasta with calamari & cherry tomatoes, garlic, wine & chilli. I’m pleased to say that the fresh pasta was cooked perfectly and, like the calamari, was al dente. This is no small thing, given how easy it is to overcook both, and nobody likes gummy, overcooked calamari. The ingredients came to the surface and again, the dish was not too salty at all for a seafood dish. In fact, I dare say, it could have done with some salt – and for someone who rarely uses salt, it’s a bold statement from me. But the presentation and ingredient preparation was top notch.
To follow the pasta, I ordered the sea bass with cream of Jerusalem artichoke and saute’ spinach which was presented to the same calibre of the other dishes. Every dish on the plate was cooked to perfection, but yet again, I found it needed seasoning. There are no salt or pepper shakers on the tables and, upon serving the dish the waiter will ask if you’d like ground pepper, but even that feels a bit like an insult to the chef: I’d like to taste my food before I decide if and how I would like to customise the seasoning. Aside from this, it was beautiful, light, well-prepared and well-presented.
I really did want to order a dessert, but I really had no room left for it. Their dessert selection is quite varied and also includes suggestions on wine parings (I should note that while I opted not to have any, they offer quite a vast and carefully curated wine list). Desserts include classics like tiramisu, gelato and sorbets as well as some more interesting offers like ‘almond and chocolate salami with ice cream’, or cheese plates for a savoury alternative. They offer a crostata (tart) of the day and I very much wanted to try the day’s flavour – fig! – but as I couldn’t manage any more I ordered a coffee instead.
As you’d expect from an authentic establishment like this one, the espresso was perfect – so good, in fact, that I had two. I particularly enjoyed the colourful cup and saucer in which it was served, as well as that it was served with a selection of amaretti and cantuccini. (Thank goodness I skipped dessert!)
As I reflect on the meal at this point, I’m pleased by the attentive and courteous service, the (seasoning issues aside) the quality and presentation of the dishes, and comfortable and inviting decor. All in all, I’m very pleased… and then the bill came. Having had the three courses for £33.50, and bearing in mind one of my dishes had a £3 supplement, adding in water and espressos plus gratuity, I estimated a bill of approximately £45, give or take. I couldn’t have imagined it would come to £60! (Actually, £59.96 to be precise).
How did this happen? Turns out my sparkling water was £3.50. My espressos? They came to £7. Oh, and the bread and olives? I was charged £6.30. And by the time you add the percentage for service charge, that’s about £20.00 added to the bill before you’ve even had a course.
So, while it’s a great place for an authentic, refined Italian meal in a warm and inviting atmosphere, I personally will be very careful about all of the extras the next time around…or, perhaps, arrange to have a business lunch and then expense the meal, as so many of their clientele does.
*Calories were estimated to 1350, factoring in 2 pieces of focaccia as part of the calorie count. Of course, these estimates are always more of an art than a science, so as usual I’d consider a 10% factor of error.
Food taste: 3.9 / 5 (Fresh ingredients, tasty dishes, but needed seasoning)
Food/table presentation: 4.3 / 5 (Linen tablecloths, personalised plates, carefully plated dishes)
Service: 4 / 5 (Great service; cordial, attentive and speedy)
Atmosphere/decor: 4.2 / 5 (Warm, inviting, refined without being pretentious. One of the more comfortable restaurants I’ve dined in)
Value for money: 2.5 / 5 (I can’t rate this any higher than average given the shock of the bill)
Overall rating: 3.8 / 5