The Hari's il Pampero restaurant delivers homemade Italian flavour to Belgravia
Tempus explores a menu packed with authentic Italian ingredients at il Pampero
Quirky and stylish, boutique hotel The Hari is nestled among the myriad of embassies just off Belgravia square, its seasonal window displays providing an art show for guests and locals alike whether celebrating Chelsea Flower Show, the Wimbledon Open or London's art and music fairs. Inside, it's sleek and intimate, with comfortable seating areas and private nooks dotted around the multi-level lobby. But it's The Hari's Italian restaurant, il Pampero, that is truly making its mark upon the area.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, il Pampero offers regional south Italian fare with truly authentic flavour – the vast majority of ingredients, from meat selection to flavoursome vegetables, are sourced from the country under the direction of executive chef, Claudio Covino. It's the promise of those rich, rural flavours that draws me in to the diverse lunch menu. Sitting in one of the venue's circular booths by the window, I have a perfect view of il Pampero's gold-plated bar and Tara Bernerd-designed dining room – bold Vespa-green walls completed with surreal paintings that lend an informal, modern air to the room.
With a menu packed with Italian delicacies I'm tempted to start with something intricate, but my desire to put Covino's authenticity to the test leads me to a classic Burrata e Datterino. While British cuisine is becoming more about local produce, there's no denying that some of our home-grown fare can't quite compare with the sun-kissed flavour packed into Mediterranean ingredients, particularly tomatoes. Sourced in Italy, this dish boasts all the bright, ripe flavour that belies its simplicity. >>
For our main course, we opt for il Pampero's signature dishes – the Cacio e Pepe and Salt-Baked Sea Bass. A pasta dish originating in Rome, Cacio e Pepe simply means cheese and pepper, and is another deceptively simple meal that relies entirely on the quality of its ingredients. Peppered tonnarelli pasta is served in a wheel of parmesan, allowing the melting cheese to create the pasta sauce. For us, this sums up Covino's approach to his menu – rich and flavoursome with a hint of showmanship.
Another showstopper is the salt-baked sea bass, which arrived at our table encased in the hard shell of salt it is baked within. Our waiter adds drama by breaking the shell at our table, deboning and serving the surprisingly light, flaky bass with seasonal vegetables.
We finished our meal just as the first of il Pampero's Italian afternoon tea ('Napolitea') diners began to arrive ready to sample the restaurant's pastries. And there's more novelties available as spring and summer approaches and the Hari's Garden Terrace opens its doors – including a special one-day-only menu to celebrate Leonardo Da Vinci's birthday on the 15 April – but despite embracing the quirky character the Hari is so well known for, il Pampero always let’s its ingredients do the talking.