Mark Nicholls experiences theatrical dining at a new London restaurant.
You’d expect nothing less than a performance. After all, Italian food and drama do naturally go hand-in-hand.
But when you open a new dining concept in the heart of London’s theatreland, there is an expectation of something a little different; of showmanship, theatrics and panache as an additional dimension to the way food is prepared, cooked and served.
This is what restaurateur Roberto Costa aims to deliver with his dining concept, “Il Teatro della Carne.”
As a new addition to the Macellaio RC Group, where meat is the focus of the food – though not the exclusive offering – it will come as no surprise that the translation is literally “butchery theatre.”
Indeed, the restaurant is structured with theatre in mind, with the bar and kitchen set centre stage with guests playing the role of diners and audience.
Taken a step further, the menu offers overtures and arias, Act I and Act II, and dishes that sit as the Interval.
Greeted by a refreshing glass of Prosecco, and focaccia to dip in olive oil, there was high expectation as the starters – the overture – arrived.
The beef carpaccio (£15) was a melt-in-the-mouth delicious curtain-raiser with rocket pesto; the cheeses sublime, a tris of burrata, ricotta, and Stracciatella (£18); and the Fin de Claire oysters with charcoaled bone marrow and samphire salad (£18) offering a salty sea-fresh tang, combined with a white Tuscan wine.
Il Teatro della Carne is set amidst the West End theatres of Shaftsbury Avenue, with Les Miserables virtually next door at the Sondheim Theatre and Harry Potter just around the corner at the Palace Theatre on Cambridge Circus.
And so, it seemed almost inevitable that there was an aura of theatrical magic in the air and some culinary wizardry, flames, and a performance to match.
The restaurant has 120 tables, with the eye drawn to the open grill where aged ribs of beef are cooked over orange-hot coals.
We sat on the mezzanine overlooking the rows of meat and the kitchen, the Fred Flintstone-sized ribs on open show and picked out by diners and cooked to order.
While we enjoyed the ebb and flow of the performance between courses from above, other diners sat closer to the action. Perched around the grill, they were near enough to feel the glow, which provided a cosy, vibrant, lively atmosphere to the restaurant.
Spaghetti alle Vongole (£18) arrived, with delicious clams and there was the tasty hake steak (£24) with samphire and lemon hollandaise on the table. This was proof, if any were needed, that there is something here too for those who may not want the full-blooded red meat choice.
But the focal point, illustrating the theme of this magnificent dining concept, was the Costata del Macellaio, the house speciality of Fassona Piemontese beef rib on the bone.
Guests can choose their preferred meat cut and weight (£8.20 per 100g for the Costata del Macellaio) and watch as it is grilled to their taste. All meat cuts are dry aged for seven to nine weeks and served on the bone. A red wine from Puglia accompanied the steak, which was rare and succulent.
Alongside the Costata del Macellaio is the Fiorentina del Macellaio (dry aged Fassona T-Bone steak), while the menu also offers salmon, a burger, grilled rack of lamb or roast chicken.
Behind the cocktail bar, another performance was under way with drinks mixed, shaken, stirred and blended somewhat flamboyantly.
Il Teatro della Carne is the seventh such dining venture by Roberto Costa and will be a new addition to the Macellaio RC restaurant concept, with various established locations around London including Soho, South Kensington, Battersea and Exmouth Market.
“Eating at my restaurant is like watching a play at the theatre,” he says. But he also hopes it takes diners on “a journey into the uniqueness of Italy.”
“At Macellaio, in every dish there is love for my country, the pursuit of quality and the passion in making you discover it,” adds Costa.
The menu steak is meticulously sourced. Costa and his team only use Italian-bred and butchered “Fassona”, a breed native to the Piedmont region and fed on hay and grains so that the meat is low in cholesterol and rich in Vitamin B, an antioxidant that preserves its intense red colour.
With a choice of desserts, fine Italian wines and cocktails, Il Teatro della Carne brings a new theatrical dining experience to London, and one that’ll leave you demanding an encore.
Il Teatro della Carne, 39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LA, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3848 1030
Take the Tube to Leicester Square on the Piccadilly or Northern line and wander down Shaftesbury Avenue and look out for the Sondheim Theatre and Il Teatro della Carne is close by. The restaurant is open Monday to Sunday from 12noon to 11:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: Italian Restaurant
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: If you’re not sure what to drink with your meal, ask beverage manager Stefano Rossomando for his suggestions.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Mark Nicholls is an award-winning freelance travel writer and author, based in the UK and has written for a range of national titles, specialist magazines and international websites and operated as a war correspondent in locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Photographs courtesy of Il Teatro della Carne