Sartoria is a pale grey restaurant on Savile Row. As evidence that this is London’s destination street — if menswear is your compulsion — Bill Nighy walked past me as I searched for Sartoria; I had walked, obliquely, into his film and I was not dressed for it. But when am I ever? I wore Gap to the Valentino couture show in Paris, out of sheer spite.
Sartoria — a preening name which I dislike — wafts on reams of praise. Male critics love it; and it is a masculine restaurant. It is long and wide, with dark woods, expensive lamps and what here are called ‘neutral colours’. There is a polished bar and a ‘heated terrace’ overlooking New Burlington Street, and specifically Hauser & Wirth, the art gallery for morons who think that irony is a superhero. (At their Somerset branch they had an installation of cows mooing in what was once a cowshed. It was a Holocaust memorial for cows.) I am amazed that there are enough men near Savile Row at any one time in search of Italian cuisine to fill Sartoria, but it is so; this then, is a restaurant for men who lunch, and I have never found one before. (Rules does not count. You do not ‘lunch’ at Rules. You devour to stave off death or the memories of childhood, face down in golden-syrup sponge pudding). Here you ‘lunch’ (verb): that is, eat small food near something, anything, related to fashion. You sit on low armchairs or small sofas with cushions; you are soothed with soft voices from handsome faces, which all look like they walked out of a Patek Philippe advert for watches; you are fed delicate plates of food from the kitchen of Francesco Mazzei, who is here called a ‘chef patron’. It is hushed, serene and exquisite; for these reasons it is not a restaurant for me, because I like my Italian food savage; still, it is a good restaurant. To say anything else would be churlish, but I do not think Sartoria would fit anywhere but Savile Row. It needs men who fret about buttons to exist. They are its lonely constituents.
Perhaps it would be different if I had eaten the saffron risotto with chicken livers, which A.A. Gill, who haunts Savile Row claiming to be an itinerant tailor, says is the best in town. But I did not, and it is too late now.
First, the bread basket — it is excellent, one of the best I have had, but I am the Gore Vidal of breadbaskets; I am all over them. I order burrata di Andria, a luscious soft cheese, which is cold, and I am not sure it should be, and I am not happy. C. has wild mushroom and spelt soup, which is the culinary equivalent of being a Blairite — it is immaculate and sensible and no one wants to have anything to do with it.
Now the spaghetti alla carbonara. This is where my film, which stars Bill Nighy as crab pizzaiola and A.A. Gill as lobster tagliolini, falls off a cliff; I should have had the saffron risotto with chicken livers. (It is too late now.) I love spaghetti, but I have never had an expensive spaghetti alla carbonara that I liked. I ate one in Venice once, in a restaurant so narcissistic it had its own elegiac cookbook, and I hated it. This, here, is similar: too much egg, not enough pig. C. has polenta with wild mushrooms and black truffle, which her face says is beyond Blairite, possibly Red Tory, if that exists, and I hope it does. By the time pot-roasted lamb with winter vegetables arrives, I am too wracked to eat it, even though it is OK. Perhaps I cannot eat near bespoke menswear. I rally slightly for tiramisu, but it is too late.