The Fourth Before the Fifth.

As I write this (between blows of my nose, as I am currently sicker than a parrot), an email pings into my inbox. 


Yes, Big Mamma Group is already opening their fifth restaurant, hot off the heels of their fourth, Jacuzzi.  It felt that Circolo Popolare opened ages after Gloria but yes, Ave Mario did to open a little swifter as the group’s third incarnation.  This blog is to laud Jacuzzi.  As we walked the mere steps from Kensington High Street and crossed the road to their soon-not-to-be latest restaurant I recalled to The European about how I heard Carlotta was on the way.  Her response, given that it was pissing down, was, “If we stand this close to the road, we’re going to get splashed”, so I left it, and promptly forgot.

Jacuzzi is one big restaurant.  You’re greeted and taken on a walk to the nearest available table, which, given the infectious popularity of Big Mamma’s eateries, and that Jacuzzi only just recently opened in January, means that you’re going to be walking pretty far. 

We were denied a seat in the bourgeois ground-floor dining room, where the pros of comfy round red banquettes adorned with vine trees dice with the cons of being near the door.  We’re whooshed through and above the mezzanine, where the pros of being near the bar dice with the cons of being near the bar.  Instead, we are taken to the topmost floor, decorated with green and white latticed walls, a worn wooden floor, and slightly uncomfortable green chairs.  It’s charming in the most un-charming way possible. 

We were shown a table in the window.  Here, it was quieter, and peaceful than down below (though by the time we left, the vicinity was packed to the rafters).  A posh-looking foursome are finishing their meal with cocktails.  One lady is dressed in clothes so fine that even I can see they are expensive.  It makes me laugh that she is sitting right underneath a framed picture of overly frilly Seventies-style women’s underwear.  Now seems an opportune moment to comment, without context, that the walls in the gents are covered in tiles of nude men, dancing.

I have written so many times about Big Mamma’s restaurants that it’s getting boring now.  In the times between writing for them, I have visited them a few more times.  I have been to Circolo at least three times now, took an old friend to Gloria in October, and only a month ago, treated my team to lunch at Ave Mario.  I’ve become insipid and predictable in my choices when it comes to Italian food.  You know the drill, I know the drill: the food in these places is fabulous.

Jacuzzi’s menu isn’t wildly different from the other restaurants.  It seemed a little more ‘rustic’, with bold heavy favours being the star of the show; not just plates of San Marzano tomatoes perfectly cooked in every way you can think of.  Breaded croquettes with pulled veal and capers were small, but you needed them to be no larger.  They were powerful and moreish, but when we ran out, we were good with that.  We also shared a pizza Margherita to start.  As good as it always is.  Big Mamma’s pizzas are amongst the best in town. 

Every Big Mamma restaurant offers a pasta to share, served from a wheel of pecorino.   At Jacuzzi, it’s a cream and truffle spaghetti alla chitarra with parmesan foam.  We ordered it, and could have cried with happiness as we ate.  The desserts were also good.  Jacuzzi segways from her sisters and doesn’t serve the tiramisus tableside.  Instead, it’s an indulgent chocolate mousse with coffee praline that’s decanted into your waiting bowl.  Both were excellent.  The European accused me of ordering her a tiramisu without her consent but that was a dirty rotten lie.  In any case, she refused to share it with me after she barely managed to eat half.

We agreed that the drinks let the evening down.  The cocktails were fine.  The European’s ‘Sunset Sour’, a punchy little number made from Wild Turkey, Apricot Merlet, Primitivo, and orange and lemon juice, was tasty and very grown-up.  My ‘Cedroni’, made with chamomile infused Campari, Martini Rubino, gin, and Nardini acqua di cedro, was sour to the point that my mouth became a cat’s bum bum, although this didn’t stop me drinking it far too quickly. 

Things went downhill when we shared a bottle of Montepulciano with the pasta.  It was seriously severe and we regretted not returning it, mainly out of embarrassment (I love how The European is becoming a little bit British to the extent that she no longer automatically complains when something isn’t right, but I also do hope that she doesn’t swing too far to the bright aside).  The grappa afterwards tasted rough, even though we chose the most expensive on the menu, a ‘reserva’, whatever that means).  Given that all these drinks cost £hundred, and therefore half of the bill, we expected better.

Nevertheless, it was a lovely evening.  On a cute (and thankfully dry) walk northwards up Kensington Church Street, past the floralicious Churchill Arms, on the way to the Tube, We discussed Jacuzzi.  Though we loved it, there was a sense of resignment that it was more of the same.  I guess if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it, but I would like something a little different from Carlotta in Marylebone. 

So, let us fast forward to that email I received.  I opened the link to book Carlotta and somewhat incredibly, found a primetime Saturday night table for two only a few days after it opens in mid-May.  By the time I had entered my card details to hold it, the table had been snapped up.  I had two choices here: to doomscroll through Carlotta’s SevenRooms calendar to find another table a month and a half in the future, or close my browser and continue writing this blog. 

I chose the latter.

Visited on 4th May 2023.

Starters, mains, desserts, and drinkiepoos came to £two hundred.

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