Giaconda Dining Room has always been one of my favourite places to frequent around the West End (well the back end of Tottenham Court Road), completely unpretentious with fantastic interesting food (and wine in particular) at sensible prices. I hadn’t been for a couple of years but my overriding memory is of a small packed buzzy bistro vibe and always welcoming staff.
So whilst racking my brains for somewhere to eat later on a Wednesday night I excitedly recalled GDR and off we went. It had changed somewhat in that the main dining room had been extended, certainly a blessing given it used to be a tight squeeze although late on a mid-week night it unfortunately wasn’t very busy and hence looked even emptier than it would have. The decor has been brightened up a fair bit with jazzy tablecloths, personally I preferred the previous starker interior but fair enough.
A small cover charge includes bread, radishes, anchovy paste and unlimited filtered sparkling water which I think is a good deal. The anchovy paste was amazing and extremely moreish (recalling my South African roots and the breakfast staple Pecks Anchovette paste). I like the idea of radishes as a snack as well, crisp and refreshing. My starter was raw salmon with fennel and cucumber. The presentation was supremely elegant, looking effortless but clearly a lot of skill in the arrangement. The cucumber was very refreshing with a generous portion of salmon beneath. Unfortunately the dish was overpowered by a sharp, salty lemon dressing. I can appreciate the combination but a bit less would have elevated the dish instead of dominating it, certainly not bad and only a small change would make this a fantastic starter. Phil had the special risotto, described as cheesy. It certainly smelt strong and looked properly creamy and comforting, he enjoyed it although said the portion was perhaps too generous.
I opted for the lemon sole wrapped in parma ham and served with saffron risotto. The main piece of fish was a great size and came plated just with a wedge of lemon. The combination of soft white fish and crisped salty parma ham worked perfectly, the fish was very marginally over but I’d happily allow that for the crisp parma ham. A side of saffron risotto was a bowl of unctuous bright yellow starchy goodness.
Phil had the special lamb, which was a grilled leg steak with coco beans and potatoes. I was concerned about the choice of cut and hence didn’t go for it myself. It was cooked on the rarer side of medium rare and the meat looked good, however I do think that is a slightly tough cut to serve so thick and rare. The coco beans with potatoes were great as an interesting accompaniment, juicy and packed full of flavour.
For dessert I opted for a strawberry and raspberry tart with creme patisserie. A classic combination, it worked very well and came as a whole mini tart. If I was being fussy I wish the pastry was a bit more delicate and there was more sauce, but those are small complaints. Phil opted for Délice Joconde, a chocolate and praline mousse with hazlenut sponge. He said it was fantastic with plenty of chocolate flavour and a light texture.
So overall a cracking meal, and with their expanded dining room you haven’t got any reason not to get down there asap. I realise I’ve sounded a bit fussy about some of the dishes but everything was enjoyed thoroughly and could be elevated to ultimate excellence with some tiny tweaks. The food is comforting and elegant at the same time, a difficult combination to pull off, and the prices are very reasonable for the quality and location. And a note on the wine list, we had this very delicious Puligny Montrachet for a bargain £45, given I’ve seen it over £30 retail. A fixed markup makes it the best value list I’ve seen in London and worth splashing a bit more on.