Near+Far’s best restaurants series explores the very best culinary options in the Middle East, and the world. The series offers top restaurant tips and reviews for those looking for the best restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and the most exciting and beautiful destinations across the world. This time we journey to Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London, where the Dubai-born restaurant opened in 2022.
Il Borro London Near+Far Rating: 8/10
Why Book the Il Borro London
If there’s something London isn’t short of, It’s Italian restaurants. With such a thriving Italian community, the city is alive with pasta countertops and casual eateries serving rustic, yet exquisite fare. But one thing it could have more of, are chic and elevated, yet not extortionate or pretentious, white table-clothed Italian occasion restaurants – even more so with a captivating backstory. Enter Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, the Dubai-born superstar restaurant opened by Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, bringing a taste of Dubai’s service and flair, and an ancient Tuscan estate’s heritage and wholesome fare to London. While the restaurant itself has roots in and takes inspiration from the Ferragamo family’s eponymous Tuscan estate, Il Borro, just outside of Arezzo, it was actually born in Dubai, where it’s one of the most celebrated and awarded dining spots in the city. This second outpost has the same charm and culinary programme – using the estate’s wine, olive oil and flour, but offers an elegant Mayfair setting. Grab a seat at the bar, hideaway by the fireplace or head upstairs to watch an army of Italian chefs prepare wonderfully authentic cuisine.
The Vibe: 8/10
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London is spread across two floors: the lower with a long bar and lounge seating, and the upper floor for dining. Visiting on a Thursday night, the lower level was out of action, concentrating diners onto the second floor and creating a warm and vibrant buzz about the space. The crowd is a mix of suits, occasion diners and regulars – of which we’re told there are a good few – and a catchy playlist keeps diners entertained until closing time – which, at the moment, is 11:30, earlier than its Berkeley Square neighbours.
The Interiors: 8/10
Marble, blonde, white, pale great and cream Il Borro London’s neutral decor resembles the original Dubai outpost. Earthy hues, columns, arched details and beamed ceilings are reminiscent of the Il Borro estate itself, along with the signature crisp white tablecloths and displays of wine. On the second floor, accessed by a manor house-esque staircase – the open kitchen is the star attraction and a seat near the show is well worth requesting. In contrast, the ground floor resembles a private Tuscan estate, with a cosy fireplace, lounge seating and a grand bar with dozens of illuminated bottles. On our visit, the DJ booth sat waiting in apprehension, but performances have re-started this month to liven up the bar area – which is a truly beautiful spot and hideaway in the often chaotic Berkeley Square.
The Food: 10/10
In Dubai, Il Borro is known as one of the go-to spots to get pretty authentic, consistently fantastic, wholesome yet elevated Italian fare. While this is harder to accomplish in London, thanks to its army of Italian restaurants, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London has brought this same rustic-meets-elegant menu to the UK capital. Headed up by group Executive Chef Fulvio Opalio (former head chef of Il Borro Dubai), the menu is everything you’d want from a Tuscan eatery – with all the classics, wholesome, vegetable-driven dishes, Tuscan red meats and delicious dolci. Dubai regulars will notice hero dishes and the kitchen is stocked with many products from the Il Borro estate, like wine, olive oil and flour. We leave our dining in the hands of Opalio, who prides himself on making each guest feel welcome and showcases the best of the restaurant with a starter of beetroot carpaccio with soft goat’s cheese and crunchy pistachios (£19.50) and a creamy burrata with juicy tomatoes and a delicious dose of Il Borro extra virgin olive oil (£21.50). We do insist on one thing, however, pasta, and are brought the most sumptuous homemade pumpkin tortellini, comforting and melt-in-the-mouth with an added spike from ricotta cheese and black truffle, sitting in a buttery sauce (£32).
Of course, being a Tuscan restaurant, red meat was on the agenda, and we enjoy a tender braised beef with creamy polenta is rich and filling yet doesn’t leave us feeling heavy (£38). Coming in a pair, we share all dishes with ample amounts each. Other hearty dishes include signature pizzas and more indulgent dishes like caviar and ossobuco. What’s fantastic about the food offering is you can simultaneously taste the rustic countryside and elegance of a Tuscan city – from humble Parmigiana di melanzan (£16.50) and Panzanella salad (£15) right through to taglioni with caviar and citrus butter (£39) and the iconic Bistecca alla Fiorentina (£149). Saving room for dessert is imperative, as the Il Borro cheesecake (£17.50) – famous in Dubai – makes a star appearance in the London restaurant. In another Dubai touch, non-drinkers will also appreciate the absence of alcohol in the signature Tiramisu (£15) – which is just as creamy and moreish as ever.
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London had a tough job on its hands when it opened in 2022: convincing a city full of Italians and Italian restaurants it needed another. But it’s managed to do just that, creating an experience as much as a restaurant that transports guests to the estate in Tuscany. Combined with chef Fulvio’s passion and the highest quality produce, it’s become a chic hideaway in Mayfair with a loyal clientele and something for every occasion – a bar, lounge seating, fireplace alcove and main dining room. This is more than a restaurant, but a taster of Tuscany itself with an enchanting story, too, and well worth a visit.