Opened in September 2014, Michelin-starred Antonio Mellino’s Quattro Passi is a discreet presence on Mayfair’s Dover Street. Mellino specializes in Amalfi delicacies. That’s a big deal. My mouth and I have eaten all over Italy but never cuisine from Campania in Southern Italy. This seems to be where all the good food comes from: fish, cheese, salami, artichokes, sparkling wine, salad, pasta, truffles, lobster, octopus. Unusually, even the bread is special: I hadn’t seen rolls, focaccia, flatbreads and grissini presented on small shelves before. It’s fun.
Read any reviews of Quattro Passi and you’ll find a few superlatives and a handful of embittered and middling remarks. This is important: Quattro Passi has terrific food but not everyone’s going to understand it because it is, in the best sense, a celebrity restaurant. While I was chewing lamb chop bones from my guest’s plate, he remarked: “Oh look it’s Prince XYZ on that table”. I turned my head: yep, that’s him. Then, as we were swapping wine glasses and “Ooooh”-ing at the new taste, someone else said, “Oh, look isn’t that XXXX?” (Out of courtesy, I shan’t identify the professional-girlfriend-celebrity-person). Turns out, Lindsay Lohan had had lunch here a few weeks ago. Valentino hosted his book launch dinner here with Kylie, Hugh Grant and Anne Hathaway. Beyoncé went en famille to Mellino’s original Quattro Passi in Nerano, Italy.
I don’t care, even though I know I should – but, in world terms, it matters. This is because the old fashioned idea that “celebrity” is identifiable with “good quality” still holds. Celebrities are people who can do whatever they want and so go to the best places.
It’s the kind of space that makes you want to get married again just to have the reception there
As for seating, we were in the crook of the main dining room’s L-shaped arm. From there, you are shielded from the street but able to see everything. On a recce downstairs, I discovered there’s an entire lounge and restaurant you can hire, complete with baby grand piano and its own bar. It’s the kind of space that makes you want to get married again just to have the reception there.
Frankly, I can’t write much about the food because 1) it was all overwhelmingly good and 2) I was having a good time. I can’t fault the pasta, cooked very al dente (or “al dante” as an ex-sister-in-law used to say). The lobster, the white truffle, the sparkling home-brand wine… all delicious and, despite the sky-high pricing, worth it. Our table ended up sharing everything so I’ve tasted almost the whole menu. That was unusual: we’re friends, but not normally sharers.
As important as the food is the service. The staff at Quattro Passi treat you as if you are both someone special and a human being, and they do it with enormous good humour. They were never tired, never sullen, never cynical.
Yes, Quattro Passi is expensive. Very expensive. Yes, they have a fixed (humanely) priced menu at lunch, and yes, they’re also serving a seven-course special on New Year’s Eve for £222 a head. Yes, you should go. Yes, you should drink the wine and chew the wafer. After all my years of eating out, I’ve finally encountered a restaurant that treated me like someone special, and like they meant it. C
Quattro Passi, 34 Dover Street, London W1
020-3096 1444; quattropassi.co.uk
Karen Krizanovich is Civilian’s Editor-at-Large