On a beautiful August day in London, I found myself with the great privilege of a guilt-free day off work and the opportunity to spend the day as a tourist in my own city. After a morning of walking through Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair and what felt like all of Central London really, I worked up quite an appetite. In a sea of uninspiring franchises and chains, my eye stumbled upon Fumo.
The exterior seemed inviting, even if a little kitsch with the ham hanging in the window. But this was different from the Pizza Expresses and the like in the area, and it was about to rain, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The interior inspired by old school Italian glamour was inviting as it was light and bright, with tables that were large and roomy compared to what’s typical in cramped Central London. I was pleased to see the marbled tables, cream leather chairs, and stylish silverware and glasses.
The specials menu, as seen with the napkin above, was tempting, and the main menu, below, was overwhelming with choice.
The notable difference between Fumo and other restaurants is that they do “cicchetti”, which are small plates of dishes that are similar to tapas. Originating from Venice, Italy, a drink with chicchetti at a bar – or several bars (in the Italian sense) – is a traditional way of spending an evening in that part of the world. So I thought I’d try a couple and have a ‘light lunch’ in the process.
My first dish was fried calamari: I find them tempting and delicious, and often lighter in calories than so many other dishes. These were pretty good. Not the best of my life, and served as eight pieces in true tapas form, but certainly nothing wrong with them. But it was upon its serving that I started to put together little things that were gnawing at me about the restaurant.
Little observations that showed a lack of attention started to surface. For example, the wine glass on the table had a white spot on it, of which I informed the waiter and he took it away (it didn’t seem like tissue as it was hardened on the glass; I’m not sure what it was). Also, my white napkin wasn’t entirely white: I’m not sure of my table setting photo above is of a high enough quality to call out the grey shadows which seemed like stains that wouldn’t come out. And finally, with the calamari, if you’re going to go out of your way to purchase signature plates, then make sure that when the dish is served, the restaurant name is facing the right way. Any one of these might not have bothered me, but it’s the overall collection of all of these that felt like a real lack of care and attention which, as a customer, makes me feel like I wouldn’t want to return.
The second of the two dishes was the tagliata, served with a nice piece of juicy lemon and a proper steak knife. Fortunately, with this dish they redeemed themselves a bit, because this steak was fantastic. Tender, flavourful, and delicious… and served to a perfect medium rare just as I ordered. It was topped with a combination of what tasted like parsley, olive oil, garlic, lemon and a bit of chilli, and very similar to the topping my mom makes when we have steak at home. I suppose that little nostalgic nod contributed to how much I enjoyed this, but it was truly delicious.
I had considered a dessert, but in contrast to their cicchetti, there was surprisingly nothing small for me to order. All the desserts were large portions and – with the exception of the fruit salad – all of them were heavy. I ordered an espresso which I must admit was especially good, but it wasn’t served with anything – not even a little tiny biscuit on the side as so many of the best restaurants do. So unlike their cicchetti menu, the desserts here follow a philosophy of ‘go big or go home’, which is not only disappointing but incongruent to their cicchetti dining.
All in all, the experience came to a total of just over 21 pounds, and left me with a feeling that I suppose could be best described as ‘meh’. It has great aspirations and a valid, unique concept behind it, but falls flat on execution, in my opinion.
*Calories: Because of the small portions and essentially no carbs, I calculated this lunch to hover in around 600 calories.
Food taste: 3.8 / 5 (The steak and coffee really helped pull this number up)
Food/table presentation: 3.8 / 5 (Lovely crystal, large marble table and actual cloth napkins, but points reduced for the lack of care in the details)
Service: 2.5 / 5 (I had to go with a classic average score. The service was inconsistent, and the manager spent an awful lot of time running around the restaurant in an animated manner which was distracting from the otherwise peaceful setting they seemed to be aspiring to)
Atmosphere/decor: 4/ 5 (It was comfortable, bright, and inviting.)
Value for money: 2 / 5 (It was more expensive than most full 2-course lunches, so I can’t really rate it quite so high. )
Overall rating: 3.2/ 5