Decadent dining and elegant surroundings await at Cento, 100 Queens Gate, Kensington
Located in the heart of South Kensington at 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel, you will find a hidden gem: Cento. One of London’s most affluent areas, celebrated for elegant architecture, celebrity inhabitants, and cultural heavyweights such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, any addition to South Kensington certainly has its work cut out living up to its lavish neighbours.
One Saturday evening, before exploring the bars and clubs of the nearby Kings Road in Chelsea, I found myself visiting Cento for dinner with no preconceptions already in my mind. What works in Cento’s favour is its location: sitting neatly on the ground floor of Curio by Hilton’s 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel, discretion is a key element of Cento’s persona. Diners who are not staying in the hotel must walk through the slick reception before being shown into the restaurant, a walk which successfully sets a sophisticated scene for the rest of your meal. We are greeted by the most fabulous, friendly yet professional front of house who immediately offers us a welcome glass of wine. I go for the Bouchard Aîné & Fils Chardonnay Vin De France, a delectable start to the meal.
It takes a moment for me to really take in the opulence of my surroundings. Dimly lit with glowing lights, Cento has an air of cool and collected ambience – understated yet trendy at the same time. Faux pink and white wisteria hangs from the ceiling as do huge glowing balloon-shaped glass lamps, what seems like an original marble fireplace sits at one end of the room, the overall effect of these interiors giving a timeless elegance to the whole place. As I peruse the starters, I wonder if the food will match up to this great first impression given by the decor. To start, I opt for the calamari with lemon mayonnaise and black pepper. A simple dish with the potential to be very flavoursome, I sink my teeth into the first calamari with delight. A beautifully crispy batter gives way to a satisfyingly textured calamari with that delicate, distinctive taste. This is made all the more tasty and moreish by the creamy-zesty addition of the lemon mayonnaise offset by the heat of black pepper. Accompanied by my glass of Chardonnay, this almost transports me to the food of Mediterranean holidays by the sea in summer. At its heart, Cento proudly showcases the very best of traditional Italian cuisine, taking inspiration from the olive groves of Italy.
Next up is my main: lobster ravioli in a creamy bisque with heritage tomato and fried basil. The pasta casing is beautifully fresh, encasing gorgeous lobster meat that has a subtle flavour – cooked to perfection and melt-in-the-mouth texture. This is beautifully complemented by the creamy bisque – a hint of spice, aromatic and indulgent – together with the sharp freshness of the basil and tomato, this is a sensation for all the senses. Again, this traditional dish is a testament to the Italian element of Cento, something that could be taken straight from a local gem of a restaurant on the Amalfi Coast.
Our wonderful waiter can do no wrong when it comes to service. Always on hand but never over-attentive, he flits round the restaurant making sure each table is happily topped up and fed. After another glass of Chardonnay, he offers us the dessert menu. As the evening has progressed, so has the liveliness of the restaurant: a lovely hum of chatter, laughter and clinking glasses fills the room, creating a vibrant atmosphere while still maintaining an air of intimacy. Although I am with one of my closest friends, I think to myself that this would be a great date spot – especially if you were staying in the hotel.
A self-proclaimed croissant connoisseur, when it comes to dessert, there is no second guessing. Without hesitation I decide on the ‘Cornetto e Gelato’: a warm croissant with ice-cream and chocolate hazelnut sauce. A combination I have never before experienced, this works perfectly. The sweet creaminess of the gelato melts into the soft, flaky pastry of the croissant, hitting that delightful ratio of sweet and savoury. The ultimate treat to complete the meal. Overall, if you’re looking for a discreet date night spot in one of London’s most beautiful areas – Cento is a great option.