Wine List Confidential: Pollini at Ladbroke Hall
Douglas Blyde finds immense beauty in the Italian menu and wine list of Pollini, located in Notting Hill arts centre Ladbroke Hall – but is there substance behind the style?
“Mamma bloody mia” wrote Daily Mail restaurant writer, Tom Parker-Bowles of his first visit to Pollini which he “hated”, although he found himself purring about “Mama’s lasagne stuffed with piles of serious beef ragu” on a return visit, while Mike Daw of the Evening Standard, who “usually eats things with lovely people” opined that the “food should be the star” despite the “heavy focus on the art and design…”
Envisioned by Vincenzo De Cotiis, whose works feature throughout Ladbroke Hall, Pollini is captured in the grand, vaulted entrance of the former Sunbeam Talbot Motor Company (1903). The grade-II listed, Beaux-Arts building later served as a photography studio.
Large, irregular, glossy tables, light and dark, are formed from upcycled fibreglass, while the central bar is granite. A quartet of works by Christopher Le Brun, and a nude by Irving Penn, are illuminated by a chandelier by Nacho Carbonell evoking the blowball of a dandelion, while wall lights protrude like the arms of machines from The War of The Worlds.
The soundtrack includes Before I Saw the Sea (Me and My Friends) and Queen’s Cool Cat, while live jazz plays on Friday nights, with recitals from a Steinway on Saturdays.
Serving a flourishing crowd including Jay Jopling and Farhad Heydari on our visit, the destination restaurant is but one part of “a stage for the arts” brought to you by co-founders, Loïc Le Gaillard, who previously operated art galleries in Mayfair for two decades, and Julien Lombrail. Connected by the original parquet floor, joyful gallery spaces include, appropriately for Lunar New Year, the Chinese Zodiac interpreted as a collection of rings. On our visit, a talk on the “History of Love” was underway in another arena.
The ongoing refurbishment has taken four years. A garden described by Le Gaillard as “extraordinary: Petersham Nurseries meets River Café” is due to open in the spring, which we look forward to dining in, along with the wine cellar by Belgian architect Nicolas Schuybroek.
Generally subject to very fair mark-ups given the chic setting and elegant crowd, the 20-page, 120-bin list, bound in fabric, is overseen by polo neck-sporting, Romain Audrerie, who discovered a love for wine while studying political science in Bordeaux, is the understated beverage consultant to Ladbroke Hall, KOKO (formerly Camden Palace), The Standard Hotel, and Julie’s, Holland Park which is scheduled to re-open in mid-April. He was previously global wine director for André Balazs Properties including Chiltern Firehouse in London, where he worked from day one, and in North America, Château Marmont, Sunset Beach in The Hamptons, and Mercer Hotel.
Despite Audrerie harbouring a dream of owning a small vineyard on Santorini, with the exception of a couple of homegrown fizzes including one of several artistically labelled wines, Doe Eyed Queen from the Chilterns, the list is, on Le Gaillard’s request, centred on France and Italy. By the glass, interesting picks range from Ferran Pradets’ 2021 Merlot, Cabernet, and early ripening Abouriou from Caves de Marmandais in the South West of France (via Theatre of Wine) at £6 per 175ml, to £15 for a 125ml portion of Möet Brut Imperial’, although for £2 more you can reach Bruno Paillard’s Première Cuvée.
Beyond a striking label by tattoo artist, Michele Labbati, Italians by the bottle begin with the non-vintage, biodynamic, still Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Sassi Bianco at just £27. This is subject to a minimal mark-up of around £10; indeed, there are at least a dozen bottles priced at £50 or under. Matters rise to £1,750 for Basse di Gianfranco Soldera 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, via Cino’s Cerbaiona’s 2012 library release at £590.
Notable bottles from France include a lesser-spotted Bourgogne Passetoutgrain, L’Exception 2020 from Domaine Michel Lafarge, reaped from a one-hectare plot co-planted with Gamay and Pinot Noir. From Domaine Denis Mortet is the concentrated 2020 Fixin, Vieilles Vignes (£135). The most lavishly priced French wine is Domaine Remoissenet’s Le Montrachet 2011, this “drop dead gorgeous” wine as one drinker called it, is priced at £1,350 to reflect its rarity. And from Bordeaux, which is where Audrerie once worked on the leaving party for the outgoing winemaker of Haut-Brion, an incarnation from 2011 features on this list (£890).
Born in Cesena in the advantageous vintage of 1986, head chef, Emanuele Pollini oversees the 60-cover, eponymous restaurant. The recipient of Best Italian Chef in 2020 (Gambero Rosso), Pollini’s CV includes Lido Lido, Terre Alte, La Buca, Carlo e Camilla in Segheria which he opened, and Frantoio Turchi in Italy, as well as Martin Berasategui’s triple Michelin-starred Basque restaurant, Clooney in Auckland, OVO By Carlo Cracco in Moscow, and Maaemo in Oslo.
Dinner began with what Audrerie called “declassified Meursault” from De Montille, an impeccable, fresh 2016 with lithe, mineral slipperiness and a continuous aftertaste poured in a Spiegelau Definition glass. This accompanied “the best snack in London” said Audrerie, feasibly, being truffle topped mortadella with Scamorza on a tapioca bar which looked like a birdfeeder block. The overall effect evoked a reinterpreted, particularly textured, croque monsieur. Continuing the fine fungi theme, was the unstoppably good Provolone pizzette al tartufo, recommended by virtuoso, Athens-born assistant restaurant manager, Nafsika Boltsi.
With tender yellowtail sashimi bathed in cold pressed tomato yuzu kosho, Audrerie poured Première Cuvée from Bruno Paillard, an independent Maison he has been instrumental in keeping present in the UK. He also showed the house’s bright label of the Claude Viallat Extra Brut from the house, its aesthetic chimes with the setting. The agile Première Cuvée continued with an elevated vitello tonnato, liver-like in texture, spun, like outsize pasta ribbons, from finely sliced rose veal.
Formerly known as a Lasagna della Graziella in homage to Pollini’s mother, the re-branded, genuinely distinctive ravioli Graziella comprises ragù bianco, bechamel-centred green spinach ravioli, and, evoking the crusted top of an actual lasagna, dried ragu crackers. From beyond a label, enigmatically depicting a padlock, Audrerie poured an intensely aromatic, near pheromonally so, smoked prune, plum and honey-scented 2010 Aglianicone from Paestum producer, De Conciliis, Monteforte. Perhaps hinting at its personality in the vineyard, this grape also goes by the name, Aglianico Bastardo.
Next, with a regeneratively farmed Cumbrian ribeye served on the bone, with thoroughly truffled Parmesan fries, Audrerie opened “my little table wine” being Cerbaiona Rosso. The “maverick” producer of this lithe non-vintage, declassified Sangiovese from Montalcino “never comes out of Tuscany, and doesn’t taste what others are doing” said Audrerie.
Finally, an outstanding, gianduja ice cream topped chocolate and Piedmontese hazelnut-riddled pudding showed just how efficient Pollini is at plating pleasure.
“If we create a location so rich and full of content they will come,” said Le Gallard our tour of Ladbroke Hall. Set within an island of interest, regenerated with care, Pollini featured faultless service, being faster than the acceleration of the Mk III Sunbeam Talbot which took no fewer than 17.4 seconds to reach 60mph. To look to the symbol of this motorcar, Audrerie’s erudite wine list, awash with interest, and remarkably accessibly priced so it gets poured rather than forever stored, is the crown on this heraldic lion.
- Rested Brunellos and bright Burgundies
- Design, paintings, and sculptures
- Floury grissini
Value: 97.5, Size: 87.5, Range: 89.5, Originality: 94, Experience: 97.5; Total: 93.2
POLLINI – Ladbroke Hall 79 Barlby Rd, London W10 6AZ; 020 8962 8690; firstname.lastname@example.org; ladbrokehall.com