Diciannove proves a jewel in the Crowne

Diciannove is bringing vibrant Italian fare to Blackfriars
Nice to eat you: pasta making in progre

Few corners of the City die down after dark at quite the breakneck speed of Blackfriars. Workers make a break for the bright lights of Southbank or the West End, or whisk themselves home before the perfunctory pint at The Black Friar pub has even touched the sides.

So it’s a surprise to find Diciannove, the four-year-old Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, relatively ‘buzzy’ on a Thursday evening, despite the lacklustre atmosphere of its location. Of course, its position as a hotel restaurant denotes a built-in customer base, and certainly a couple of lone diners suggest they’re but a swipe key away from a comfy bed and a basic Sky package.

But the rest of the tables – groups and couples chatting animatedly – suggest the offering of Italian classics with seasonal flourishes was enough to lure some walk-ins through the door. That, or the wind gusts coming off Blackfriars Bridge were stronger than we thought. One look at the substantial menu and we’re confident it’s the former.

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Diciannove dishes up a substantial menu of authentic Italian.

If you like Italian food, you will be torn in each course: ravioli with ricotta and roasted chestnuts and pumpkin puree or spaghettini with fresh crab and chilli? Cod and fresh clams or spiced monkfish served with peppers?

There’s the sense that executive chef Alessandro Bay could tighten things up a bit and drop a few of the less popular dishes, but the regions of origin listed next to each demonstrates a geographically well-rounded menu; seafood from Liguria, osso bucco from Lombardia, and so on.

And if the quantity of options ever affected the quality of the food, it doesn’t now. The antipasti are fresh and produce is king; burrata and scallops served simply with seasonal vegetables. Pasta courses are generous and pack a punch, particularly in the case of a flavor-filled tagliatelle with a beef and pork ragout.

Moving on to mains and the fillet of beef is worth its £32 price tag, the perfect shade of pink and sitting pretty on a cushy bed of polenta puree and parmesan-roasted parsnips. The cod, on the other hand, was slightly overcooked and a little underwhelming. Special menus showcase regional produce, transporting you to Calabria one week, Tuscany the next. We’ll take that over Blackfriars any day.

19 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6DB