I had a Virgin Experience voucher to spend and opted for a two-course meal with prosecco at Marcellaio RC (this stands for Roberto Costa who heads the chain of six Italian restaurants across London). I chose the Soho branch situated on Shaftesbury Avenue and sandwiched between the Gielgud and Sondheim theatres.
Having booked some time ago, I telephoned the day before to check the reservation and took the opportunity to check which menu we could choose from. The helpful guy said it was the pre-theatre menu (rather than the lunch menu) but we could have an allowance of £56 if we wanted to choose dishes from a la carte menu.
Arriving at 1.30pm on a Monday, we appeared to be the only customers and having been shown to a table at the back, we were presented with a cloudy looking fizzy drink. On asking, we were told it was unfiltered prosecco and that many of their 350 wines are organic.
The restaurant specialises in steak and two of the three main courses on the pre-theatre menu were beef, with one attracting a supplement of £32 (in addition to the £35 cost of the two-course meal). So we chose from the a la carte menu which because of the theatre location was divided into sections called Overture Parts I and II, Acts I and II, and Interval with sides being referred to as co-stars. To me, it just felt a bit gimmicky especially when the naming of some dishes followed suit – for example, oysters and bone marrow were called Beauty and the Beast.
To begin we opted for a plate of four types of charcuterie which were delicious, and it was a generous portion especially with the complimentary bread basket with focaccia, sour dough and a wonderful olive oil for dipping.
We then had trofiette pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans and tagliatelle with a slow cooked Fassona beef toco sauce, which I might have called bolognaise sauce. If the starter was generous, the pasta wasn’t, especially for £16.
The wine list was expensive and extensive and I chose a bottle of the cheapest – a Sauvignon Blanc for £32.
On the way out, we were looking in the fridges near the entrance when the waiter approached and began telling us about the source of the meat (female Fassona breed, strictly older than 36 months and bought directly from a trusted source), how it is stored and rotated in the fridges for several weeks until it changes from being red to virtually black. He told us that they had to put a sign in the window display as people thought that the meat was plastic.
This is a smart restaurant with white linen table cloths and napkins and excellent service, and I’d really like to see it in the evening when hopefully it would be busier. However, with the prices charged, it’s not really somewhere I’d go for a quick pre-theatre meal.