I thought I would hate Bulgari. (At least they have stopped calling it Bvlgari). Ah, you might say, surely Bulgari, a tentacle of LVMH, the ‘luxury goods giant’ that makes rubbish for women too hot to work, but too bored to stay awake, does not belong in a restaurant column? Has Gold, who avoided being doused in Pol Roger by Charles Moore at the Spectator summer party and found the cognitive dissonance of that assault very frightening, gone mad and decided to review accessories? Will somebody else be swallowing the cartoon chicken (see above)?
Bulgari, you see, has gone into hotels, and therefore restaurants, so the women who wear Bulgari can now live, eat and digest in Bulgari; this, although they do not know it, is the natural trajectory of brand marketing, which will one day have us all living inside Toilet Duck. The Bulgari is a sheer white wall on Knightsbridge. I laid into Knightsbridge’s Assad Chic last time, so I will only suck my pencil and giggle now, because the Bulgari website thinks Knightsbridge is ‘the city’s most prestigious neighbourhood’. London doesn’t have ‘neighbourhoods’, marketing troll, it has districts or, if you are a taxi driver, manors.
The vibe is international advertising, a world gone gold. The doorman wears a cap and beige mackintosh in a desperate scream for the Lynx Effect; yes, Bulgari is another plutocrat hole in the ground, with six storeys below and nine above. This is the wages of tax haven-iasis and I am glad I am with my mother; she grins like a tyrant with $10 billion in a Swiss bank account, and is therefore at home. When I arrive she has already mugged Harvey Nichols.
We enter a dark wood and leather lobby, designed, to my eyes, to resemble an enormous first-class cabin. This is obviously part of the luxury goods industry’s evil plan to make the entire planet look like a first-class cabin, which probably has something to do with fear, and tax, and fear of tax. Down a vast curved staircase, which is entirely Busby Berkeley chrome and spotlights. There is no audience at the bottom, but Bulgari only opened in May; perhaps the issue of New Places That Look Like Old Places But Are Even More Expensive in which it features is not yet out. Anyway, this restaurant is windowless and BDSM sexy-sinister, in pale grey curtains and pale grey walls; it is a restaurant out of 50 Shades of Grey. I am not giving you anything else on 50 Shades of Grey; sometimes women are dirty screaming perverts. Live with it.
The food, however, is well-behaved. It is Italian with a post-modern innovation called a pencil. On the table is a list of tiny foods, a pre-entrée, and you mark what you would like with a pencil. While most hotels are getting into personalised iPods, the better to avoid the people serving you, the Bulgari is doing pencils. It’s adorable.
We have a minute Caprese and excellent mixed meats, with good bread. There is a £30 set menu, which probably won’t hang around, and a full whack of pastas, pizzas for £10 and more expensive flesh. Condé Nast babes can eat for £20 here while practising sperm banditry on billionaires, which can only ensure the survival of Vogue. The risotto alla milanese arrives in a saucepan, a grunge touch I like, and Mother’s grilled lamb chops with aubergine caviar and olive sauce is as good as little baa-lambs come.
The ice-cream is served in frozen glasses with four — four! — tiny jugs; one for chocolate sauce, one for toffee sauce, one for strawberry sauce and one for cream. A huge biscuit comes, unasked, with a silver hammer; Mother can decapitate a cookie. I like Bulgari; because it is empty, it feels like the echoing palace of a madman.
Bulgari Hotel, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW, tel: 020 7151 1010.