Jason Allen 05/07/21
Selfridges has become the filling in an Italian restaurant sandwich.
Playing the part of the top slice up on the department store’s roof, you’ll find Alto by San Carlo, a lush, trellis-covered Italian retreat. And the bottom slice at the foot of the shop (well, a few yards away in St Christopher’s Place) takes the form of Isola by San Carlo, a lemon-hued eatery inspired by the Islands of Italy.
Aside from the altitude, the similarity between the siblings is evident. Here on solid ground you’ll find a wrap-around terrace with room for plenty al fresco diners, and sage-green awnings shading you from the sun’s glare. But it’s inside that’s the most impressive looking, draped in an appetite-whetting colour palette inspired by some of Sicily’s most famous exports, including “lemons, pistachios and prickly pears”. The main dining room is filled with families and larger groups, while the adjoining bar boasts intimate booths for two hugging the walls. There’s plenty of brass & marble lavished about, and there’s a large specially commissioned mural by acclaimed artist Jessalyn Brooks above the bar downstairs. If every a restaurant looked literally good enough to eat, this may be the one, though, truth be told, the eye-popping style is just a touch undermined by the bright lighting (during the day, at least), the laminated menus and the lack of music, which combine to evoke more of a post-shop stop-off than date night atmosphere.
As for the food? Well, as well as a smattering of San Carlo signatures (thank you, tagliolini lobster) they’re serving up dishes plucked straight from the various Italian islands themselves, including lamb & porchetta from Sardinia, and the dream-like seafood (think red prawns, swordfish and tuna) from Sicily. There’s simple comfort food, in the form of crowd-pleasing pasta dishes, as well as more elaborate showpieces, like the baked sea bass. Buried and baked in a mound of coarse grey crystals of Trapani salt, it’s then patted down with a napkin and expertly sliced up tableside into soft, glossy flakes.
To go with it all there’s a solid Italian-leaning wine list, alongside cocktails which were a touch unreliable beyond classic aperitivi…
…but when in Isola, why drink anything else?
NOTE: Isola by San Carlo is open daily for lunch and dinner. You can find out more, and book a table, at their website right HERE.
Isola by San Carlo | St Christopher’s Place, W1U 1AY
Like the food, but wish it were higher up? Take a peek at Alto by San Carlo…
St Christopher's Place, Marylebone, W1U 1AY
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