A review of Elistano, Chelsea
Lunch in the company of Rex Leyland, who co-founded The Restaurant Doctor with Pierre Koffman and Terence Martin, is always a pleasure as he is frankly one of the most passionate foodies I’ve ever encountered. We recently met, along with the former restaurateur Anthony Brown, at Elistano in Chelsea and a good time was had by all.
Leyland is a character whom the Evening Standard once described as an “excitable bearded man.” He founded the Chelsea institution Foxtrot Oscar with Michael Proudlock and variously owned other restaurants including Jake’s in Hollywood Road and Busby’s. Now based between a gargantuan houseboat at Kew Bridge on the River Thames and a home in Spain, his insatiable enthusiasm for food, cars and planes is quite wonderful. You can follow him on Twitter @Rexthesex.
Elistano is itself a restaurant that I have known for some years as a good friend, Guy Mountford, worked there whilst he lived in the UK. He sadly suddenly had to return to South Africa after breaking up with a girlfriend and in the following period many changes have followed. As is often the case in the restaurant business, chefs and managers have come and gone at Elistano but now the venue seems to be back on track after a much needed facelift.
One of the problems at Elistano was that it was just too noisy. Owner Derek Taylor has successfully rectified this by installing sound reducers and this has somewhat solved the problem. The décor has also been updated considerably and my only criticism would be that the flooring remains stuck in 1972. In time, I am sure this will be replaced also.
To start, we shared a selection of small plates and salads. Mr Leyland was especially impressed with a Vitaminica salad (£12.95) that he described as “fabulous” but Mr Brown’s beef Carpaccio (£10.95) was unfortunately fridge cold. My choice of chorizo sausage in red wine sauce, however, was a little too fatty and somewhat disappointing.
I continued with a delicious chicken escalope with rocket and cherry tomatoes. At £12.50 this was great value for money and the chips (£3.95), surprisingly for an Italian restaurant, were exceptional.
Mr Brown opted for the 8oz rib eye steak with béarnaise sauce and a grilled tomato (£17.95). All meat at Elistano comes from the restaurant’s neighbour, Jago’s butchers, a terrific local business, but sadly on this occasion the cut was mostly fat. Himself living across the road from the restaurant, he did however comment that on previous visits this particular steak had generally been a most suitable choice.
We concluded with Elistano’s homemade tiramisu, as well as trifle (both at £5.95 each) and a cheese selection (£7.95). The tiramisu was perfectly executed but the trifle was somewhat lacking. As I see only too often, the cheese was served fridge cold. This is an error that would have resulted in a meltdown if a certain American I know had been present and it is a mistake that restaurants should take heed to ensure does not occur. White wine should be served from the coolest of fridges. Cheese should be at room temperature.
The wine list at Elistano understandably is mainly Italian in focus. A 2010 Pinot Grigio is pefectly quaffable and priced at £24 a bottle. Variety comes in the form of a list that ranges from a half-litre carafe of house wine priced at £11 to an £89.50 Montepulciano. The Vina Zaca Rioja (£29.95) we tried was also especially good.
Elistano is somewhere one can rely on for good simple cuisine at reasonable prices. Yes, it has faults but so do all restaurants. This is a neighbourhood restaurant that truly deserves a chance.
Elistano, 25-27 Elystan Street, London, SW3 3NT. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7584 5248. Website: http://www.elistano.com
Follow Elistano on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/elistano