The words ‘hidden gem’ are some of the most used in restaurant reviews, but I’ve waited this long to follow the crowd because it is simply the most fitting way of describing Florentine. If you have ever been to the nondescript part of town that is Lambeth North, you will know exactly what I mean. There used to be a chicken cottage, a few Chinese takeaway places and little else; however, with the arrival of Park Plaza London Waterloo with its art-focused deco, this area might just one day be the new Shoreditch.
Florentine is the main restaurant at this stylishly hip hotel; the decor is suitably in tune with the rest of the hotel with a smart mixture of dark brown and gold hues. The sumptuous leather seating means you will delightfully dine here and have drinks all night long especially when they have live music playing in the latter parts of the week.
Initially, I was marginally disappointed with the offerings on the menu; it seemed to be typical play-it-safe hotel fare. Thankfully, as I have learned from my years of experience of restaurant reviewing, it is better to have standard dishes well executed than adventurous ones poorly produced.
It is very hard to go wrong with a starter portion of Iberico bellota, especially when it is the 5J brand which is widely regarded as the best brand in Spain. It came with some sweet tasting Pan Con Tomate to counterbalance the saltiness of the meat. Aubergine Parmigiana was unsurprisingly well-executed seeing the large contingent of Italian chefs in their open kitchen; it was well roasted, hearty and the kind of dish that gets reviewers screaming ‘melt in your mouth’.
Portion sizes are very generous at Florentine, judging by the sight of my veal Milanese main course. The veal had been grass-fed hence the extremely tender meat and the coating of bread crumb was golden and crispy with a slight sprinkle of sea salt. The presence of heritage tomatoes added a riot of colours to the dish.
My guest had a baked shakshouka and duck egg; which to be fair is quite an unusual dish outside of Middle Eastern cuisine restaurants. It had plenty of healthy aubergines, peppers, tomatoes which were well cooked through and infused with flavours from the chilli and parsley.
Seeing the strong Italian influences on the menu, I went for a blueberry cheesecake. It was delightfully light and creamy, thankfully not dense like the typical New York style type cheesecakes which can be quite heavy on the stomach but something that adds a welcoming sweet ending to your meal along with the blueberry compote.