Campari brings the Spiritello to Barbican’s Osteria

Galleria Campari Osteria
Salt-baked sea bass at Osteria.

Despite a passable summer in London, the Brutalist walls of the Barbican seem about as far away as one can get from aperitivo in Milan on a warm evening.

That’s why it’s a surprise to see the vibrant artwork that made Campari one of the world’s best known brands looking relatively at home against such an austere backdrop.

It could be the glow that comes with having one of the City’s most important cultural institutions two floors below. More than likely, it’s the faint scents of Italy wafting from the kitchen of Osteria, the temporary home to some of the most iconic works from Sesto San Giovanni’s Galleria Campari for the next three months.

It was this kitchen that piqued our interest back in January, when Michelin-starred chef Anthony Demetre launched Osteria as his fourth venture following the now-closed Arbutus in Soho, Mayfair’s Wild Honey and Urban Coterie in Shoreditch. The Barbican’s much maligned absence of a decent pre-show dinner was finally rectified.

The Galleria Campari exhibition tells the story of the brand through nine artistic works positioned, jarringly at times, around the restaurant.

By contrast, Demetre’s artfully curated Spiritello tasting menu (£39) – designed to complement Campari’s bitter combination of botanicals – proves far smoother sailing.

The chilled summer minestrone is a perfect start – fresh, and tastes as though you’re getting your five-a-day.

Parma ham draped over Sicilian melon on a white bean salad is also delicious, though the melon runs the show. Both are perfectly paired with a Negroni.

Only true devotees would stick with cocktails for the next few course though; Italian wines making a tempting dance partner with rigatoni, and a melt-on-the-tongue salt-baked sea bass. Demetre’s popular roast rabbit saddle is also on offer as an alterative.

The vanilla and strega panna cotta arrives with a somewhat runny texture, though we are assured this is intentional.

It is perhaps the only wobble (or lack thereof) in an otherwise thoughtful menu that will have you booking flights to Milan to catch the last rays of summer.