In some ways, the Giaconda Dining Room reminds me of Crabtree & Evelyn (bear with me on this one). Tucked away on Denmark Street in the middle of Soho, the restaurant is a tiny affair. The 25 or so covers are squeezed into a space that most restaurants would fill with half the number of tables. The kitchen is even smaller. In order to get to the bathrooms, you have to actually leave the restaurant. It feels like a London institution, the kind of place that only the locals, who have been coming for 30 years, know about.
Except it's not. The Giaconda Dining Room only opened a couple of years ago and it won Time Out's award for best new restaurant in 2009. Hence the comparison to Crabtree & Evelyn, which always seems like it's been around forever despite being founded in the 1970's and only in current form since much more recently.
The restaurant is run by an Australian husband and wife team and the menu is what I would describe as 'electric European' with influences from France, Spain and Italy all sitting happily side by side as well as some more challenging dishes (tripe anyone?).
To start with, I had the beef carpaccio, having been told by one of my dining companions (my mother) that it was some of the best carpaccio in the city. She wasn't wrong. The meat was perfectly fresh and served at exactly the right temperature to enhance the flavour. There were no fancy accompaniments, just a drizzle of mayonnaise and some parmesan. Carpaccio the way it should be served. My dad had a vitello tonato, cold sliced veal with a tune mayonnaise, which he said was excellent.
To follow, I had the duck confit with potato lyonnaise and a watercress salad. The duck leg had a thick and crispy layer of fat hiding the rich and succulent meat. The potato lyonnaise was delicious with a hint of onion and perfectly cooked potatoes.
My mum had the pumpkin risotto which was one of the specials of the day which she commended for the amount of pumpkin. My dad had fish stew which he hoovered down in about 3 seconds flat.
Initially I tired to resist the lure of dessert but I couldn't resist and chocolate and praline mousse cake. My mother, who doesn't eat desserts, stole three mouthfuls of it which is a testament to how good it was.
The service was very friendly yet very efficient with our waitress taking care to ensure that my dad's choices were suitable for a coeliac. Nothing was too much trouble despite it being a very busy Friday night service.
The bill for three of us, including a bottle of wine, was just over £100. For the location, quality and experience, I don't think it can be beaten.