A lot of Italian restaurants in the UK tend to fall into one of two camps: reasonably-priced family-run places which serve rustic classics, and high-end ‘Italian-inspired’ spaces with so little personality it can be hard to tell which establishment you’re in at any given time. Il Gattopardo manages to take the personality of the former and pair it with the fine dining of the latter. 

Situated in the heart of Mayfair and coming complete with uniformed doorman, don’t go in expecting a cheap bite to eat, but do expect to get your money’s worth – even with the hefty price tag. The restaurant itself is a masterclass in ambience; all moody lighting and expensive furnishings are offset by an abundance of animal print (Il Gattopardo is Italian for ‘the leopard’)  which manages to add individuality without coming across as tacky. There’s also a very swish retractable glass roof over the back room, which will probably come into its own in the summertime, but wasn’t quite as showstopping on a rainy Wednesday in February.

When it comes to the menu, there’s a drinks list as long as your arm, with so many different wines and spirits we’re not entirely sure how they’ve got the space for them. Luckily the staff are on hand to recommend pairings and suggest cocktails, and everything we had worked beautifully with the food, as well as in its own right.

Speaking of food, it’s a sharing plates situation, with a combination of classics from across Italy paired with unique twists on restaurant standards. The gamberi (that’s prawns for any non-italian speakers in the audience), served as a carpaccio with citrus, chicory and olive oil, is subtle and balanced, while the kale salad with ricotta and pomegranate is enough to make you reassess your prejudices about 2013’s biggest superfood.

Italian classics like the burrata and cured meat selection are both predictably excellent, with the smokiness of the burrata perfectly set off by whirls of grilled courgette, and the 24-month aged Culatello being among the best we’ve ever tasted.

Among the larger dishes the spaghetti vongole is a triumph, with hints of lemon cutting through the garlic flavours and bringing out the subtle flavours of the clams. The real centrepiece though is the selection of whole grilled fish. We opted for the Dover sole, brought over and filleted at the table in an old-school show of technical expertise – they make removing hundreds of bones from a fish look as easy as cooking a piece of frozen Birdseye cod. The fish is cooked to perfection and served with a meaty collection of seasonal mushrooms which add another textural dimension and elevate the dish above being just a hunk of (admittedly delicious) fish.

For dessert, maritozzo, an iconic Italian pastry. Think open-faced profiteroles, and you’re about halfway there. Brioche buns stuffed with chantilly cream and chocolate custard, they somehow manage to be both incredibly rich and deliciously light. The perfect end to a flawless meal.

Recommending a restaurant like Il Gattopardo is always tough – not only does it have to be enjoyable, it also has to justify the elevated price tag that fine dining in London entails. Il Gattopardo manages to do this with ease, shouldering its way into a crowded market of Mayfair eateries and, judging by how busy it was on a Wednesday night, taking the capital by storm.

27 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HZ

For more information on II Gattopardo, see here.