A trip to London wouldn't be the same without a visit to the luxury department store Harrods, so on our second day in the capital, we made our way to plush Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in hope of picking up a bargain or two in the world famous Harrods Sale.
Harrods is huge, occupying a 5 acre site with over one million square feet of sales area and I'm sure it would take several days to properly browse the 330 different departments that trade within the store. We barely managed to cover the ground floor before we realised that it was getting on to lunchtime. We had a choice of either exiting the store to look for somewhere local where we could grab some lunch before heading back for more shopping, or trying to get something to eat inside Harrods. We didn't fancy the prospect of battling through the crowds, plus the weather outside was horrible, so we decided to stay inside and eat at one of the many options inside the department store.
There are no shortage of places to eat inside the store, In fact there are over twenty five restaurants and cafés inside Harrods meaning that most tastes and budgets are catered for. In the end, as we were already downstairs in the wine & spirits department we decided to grab a table at dei Frescobaldi, a modern looking Italian restaurant on the lower ground floor. The Frescobaldi name is perhaps better known in the winemaking world, having been producing wine for over 700 years and are believed to have supplied wine to renaissance artist Donatello as well as King Henry VIII. These days, the Florentine family business is split between wine production and restaurants renowned for exquisite food with perfect wine matching.
The restaurant was almost full when we enquired about a table however after a short wait, we were seated and given a quick rundown of the specials. There is a daily set menu offering two courses for £20 but the main dishes that had caught our eye were not available this menu.
I ordered the gentile paccheri con ragù d'agnello, which which roughly translated as pasta with a lamb ragu. I was surprised when my dish arrived as I had expected the ragù to be ground meat and tomato based, but what I received was almost like a rich meaty gravy with chunks of amazingly tender slow cooked lamb. The thick fresh pasta was cooked to perfection and the intense flavour from the consommé was so good that I devoured the contents of my plate in no time at all. Oddly enough, I had recently had a debate with my 13 year old nephew about why pasta and gravy don't go together - however based on this fantastic lamb ragù dish, I'll have to eat my words! It would seem that the definition of ragù is dependent of whereabouts in Italy you are. In the north, a ragù is generally made with ground meat, sautéed vegetables, whilst in the south a ragù is made by slowly braising large, whole cuts of meat with vegetables and tomatoes. Regardless, the lunch that I had at dei Frescobaldi was one of the tastiest pasta dishes that I've ever eaten.
I think it took Nicola less than thirty seconds to choose her own lunch course, as soon as her eyes clocked the words 'risotto' & 'truffle', she was hooked. The risotto con funghi porcini al profumo di tartufo, translated as cep risotto scented with truffle, arrived and immediately our nostrils were filled with a wonderful mushroomy aroma. The risotto was light and creamy and packed full of flavour. The massive mushroom flavour hit came from the huge chunks of porcini mushroom and the black truffle oil that had been added to lift the flavours to another level, yet whilst there was no doubting the fact that this was a mushroom risotto, it wasn't overpowering either. With a good handful of chopped fresh herbs, the dish had a perfect balance. I do make a mean risotto at home but did feel slightly deflated when Nicola said that this risotto was better than mine!
Our lunch cost £64, including a great bottle of Pinot Griggio and 12.5% service charge. I'm sure that had we made the decision to go outside to find somewhere to eat then we wouldn't have spent so much on lunch, however I doubt that we would have tasted food as good as we did at dei Frescobaldi.
So, with us revitalised after a delicious lunch, we made our way back upstairs and into the madness that was Harrods Christmas Sale. Nicola managed to pick up a wee bargain or two in the beauty department but unfortunately I wasn't able to find anything that I needed. In fairness, I was quite happy to do a bit of window shopping, marvelling at how the other half live.
It's amazing how quickly time can pass when you're walking endless miles inside Harrods and before we knew it, it was time to make a move and get back to the hotel. By the time we exited the building it was getting dark and the outside of Harrods was lit up like the preverbial Christmas tree, making for a perfect photo opportunity before heading underground to get our tube back to Fitzrovia.
Next time you're in the Knightsbridge area and feeling peckish, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending a visit to Harrods and a hearty Italian lunch at dei Frescobaldi.
Keep up to date with dei Frescobaldi on Facebook & Twitter, (& here too)You can also keep up to date with Harrods on Facebook & Twitter too.