Who needs décor if the place is right?

DRIVE, BUS, or cycle in a northerly direction up Regent Street and when
you reach Liberty’s, turn right. You pass the stage door of the
Palladium Theatre on the left then the back door of Marks and
Spencer’s; on the first corner, which is Poland Street, you find Vasco
and Piero’s Pavilion.

Go there.

It is an admirable
restaurant, though Vasco is currently away looking for truffles in
Italy while Piero died many years ago. Vasco’s son is among those in

Italians were crap soldiers (in WW2 they had a tank with
six gears, five reverse, one forward in case the enemy came from the
rear), pretty shifty politicians and they don’t play darts; but they
are – and have always – been hospitable people.

They prepare food
with all the skill of the French, but without the arrogance and disdain
for others that you encounter in France. If you go somewhere for the
first time, an Italian eatery is the place; the Pavilion is especially
nice to people they don’t know and even nicer when you go back.

years ago, the restaurant was situated upstairs in the cinemas called
Studio One and Two in Oxford Street East, off Oxford Circus, where
Marks and Spencer’s now have a huge store. I found it in the 1970s. It
had an exemplary list of Italian wines, décor by a lovely old
theatrical photographer called Angus McBain, good food, nice staff
(Vasco and Piero to name only two), and remained open even after the
films had finished; it was the first place in which I met Ken

When they moved, nothing much changed: no fusions,
no menus that give ingredients down to the last sprig of tarragon, no
mention of the time of day they claim the mushrooms were gathered; just
really well prepared meat and fish and calves’ liver cooked with skill.

is decent bread with best olive oil. Homemade pasta served as you ask
for it to be served: mine with mushrooms, chopped Parma ham, green
peppercorns and cream. Pieces of parmesan are grated on to your food
until you cry stop.

The place is full at lunch-time; I have
walked past at 4.30pm and seen people indulging in coffee and brandy.
It usually has room at dinner, when a twocourse meal is yours for £22,
three courses £26.

If you order a la carte (I get an hors
d’oeuvres of buffalo mozzarella, Mediterranean tomatoes, Parma ham,
avocado and basil). The bill, when it arrives, is less than I expected,
which is the criterion of good value.

House wine is £13 and good.
The wine list has some rare Italian offerings with no-one to bore you
about balance, length, aromas of sandalwood and cigar boxes. Barolos
excel. Try Valpolicella Amarone.

Unless you are very unlucky and
they are very full, what is nice is that the tables are not squashed so
close together you can help yourself to your neighbours’ tiramasu, (the
danger here is that they might grab yours).

There is a downstairs
private room where 20 people can sit comfortably; this is ideal for
Christmas parties, especially ideal because the lavatories are

The décor is no longer spectacular – “pleasantly
unassuming” would be a fair description, but the food and drink, and
especially the staff, who take your coats and hang them up and quite
often give them back, make up for that. I mean who needs décor when the
place is right?

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