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An Italian Escape Set High Above Selfridges – Alto By San Carlo, Oxford Street

June 23, 2018

Restaurants & Bars | by Harry Mills

The allure of Oxford street and its’ famed department stores such as Selfridges, has long been frequented by the masses, making  it the least desirable location to relax and enjoy a bite to eat. However, for the last four years, Selfridges has offered a summer solstice for those to escape, on its’ very own rooftop. This year the fifth floor terrace is, once again, home to another restaurant; Alto, a new Italian restaurant in partnership with the San Carlo –  restaurant group behind Fumo, Cicchetti and Gran Café.

Accessible by an express lift located in Selfridges’ beauty hall (visible from the main entrance), Alto by San Carlo quickly transforms you to a corridor studded with Italian chinotto fruit and floral arches. Upon entering the restaurant is split into two sections, the first is equipped with a retractable roof ideal for London’s unpredictable weather  and the second a terrace ideal for a spritz in the sun.

The space is vast and is decorated with blue pastel hues, crisp white linens and wicker chairs enriched in natural light. Fortunate for us the weather was uncharacteristically good for London and so forgetting where we really were was no trouble at all. A Campari spritz got things underway before approached by a uniform,  immaculately cloaked in white explains the menu’s Cicchetti ‘concept’ – ideal for sharing.

Tartare of fresh tuna mixed with capers, asparagus and chilli was light and flavoursome alongside meaty baked scallops dressed in their shells in white wine, garlic, lemon and breadcrumbs – you won’t want to share these!

An off-menu special of risotto rice with basil and prawns was moreish and wonderfully perfumed with basil and the rice al dente. A basket of fritto misto was lightly battered and not oily, loaded with soft shell crab, prawns and squid perfectly cooked accompanied by tartare sauce and a Calabarian chilli sauce, an ideal dish for sharing. A glass of Falanghina Mastroberardino was a perfect accompaniment, very fresh and persistent with a pleasant and fruity final impression which cut through the batter of the fritto misto and our zucchine fritti side.

A skewer of monkfish guazzetto in marsala, tomato and spring onion was truly delightful and the marsala added a wonderful nutty flavour to the tender sweet flesh of the slightly charred monkfish. For dessert we took to the terrace to enjoy a truly delicious torta pistacchio which was creamy with the texture similar to a semifreddo.

Whilst the restaurant was busy during our lunchtime visit, Alto manages to distract you from your neibouring tables whilst focusing you on truly exquisite Italian cuisine, in the unlikeliest of places, central London.

On Wednesday 27th June, for one night only, Alto by San Carlo will host seven of Italy’s most renowned chefs (with seven Michelin stars between them) for a five-course not to be missed tasting menu. The culinary talents include Alessandro Negrini and Fabio Pisani (Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia), Annie Féolde and Alessandro Della Tommasina (Enoteca Pinchiorri), Cristina Bowerman (Glass Hostaria) and Alfonso Caputo (La Taverna del Capitano in Massa Lubrense) as well as the star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Corrado Assenza. San Carlo are committed to promoting authentic Italian cuisine and this one-off event is the perfect demonstration of this. Tickets for the event are priced at £160 per person and are available through Eventbrite, or from Selfridges’ website.

For more information on Alto by San Carlo see here.

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