Luckily my friend gave me another chance and we rebooked our dinner at Giaconda Dining Room. Nestled among guitar shops, I knew already that it was a small place with only 32 covers, but I was still surprised when I walked in. The place is tiny; tables are close together and I was worried I'd be too loud.
For a £1 cover charge, we were brought some decent, crusty bread and some standard olives. As we perused the menu, I found it really difficult to decide what to choose, which is pretty standard for me. I contemplated having a raw, beefy meal with the carpaccio to start and the steak tartare for main, but it was a cold night and I needed something a little more nourishing.
The ceviche of salmon and seabass was buried under a mound of thinly sliced fennel, cucumber and chives. Dressed with lime and the merest hint of chilli, the fish was fresh and firm. The fennel was surprisingly tame in it's aniseed flavour and worked well with the cucumber. It was a refreshing start to the meal and left me wanting more.
My companion wrinkled his nose when I announced I would be having the braised tripe with chorizo and butter beans (top). It came in an earthenware dish with a comedy large spoon; the tripe was slippery with a bit of bite, and well flavoured by the chorizo and paprika. Butter beans bulked the dish out and added creaminess. The dish was the perfect size and was homely.
We decided to share a dessert of Crème Brulée as we were both verging on full. The top was perfectly crisp, not too thick and was pleasing when you cracked your spoon into it. The custard beneath was rich and orange flavoured. I wondered if I would finish my half but on first taste, I wolfed it up.
Service was sweet and unobtrusive. When we left I realised we'd been there for three hours, which is a fair bit longer than I'd usually spend on a weeknight dinner. I never felt I was being rushed, even when people were turned away as the restaurant was full. It might be testament to the excellent company, but it flew by.
All in all, good solid cooking. The menu has quite a few options I'd like to try out, so I will definitely be back. At £35 a head including service and wine, it's great value for this part of town.
The Giaconda Dining Room
9 Denmark Street
London WC2H 8LS
Tel: 0207 240 3334