What happens when a homegrown Dubai restaurant goes global?
As one of the most lauded restaurants in the history of the FACT Dining Awards Dubai – with four awards and counting – Il Borro Tuscan Bistro is a firm FACT favourite, but when transported to London, does it maintain the charm and consistency upon which it has built such a loyal following?
Il Borro from Orange Hospitality (Alici, MayaBay and forthcoming Josette) has led the charge when it comes to homegrown concepts opening in London. With The Maine and the soon-to-open GAIA and Reif Japanese Kushiyaki following suit, the reasoning seems evident. An influx of residents and tourists travelling between the UAE and the UK equates to brand recognition that holds a lot of clout when it comes to standing out in London’s crowded dining landscape of an estimated 18,000 establishments.
We take a seat at the upmarket Italian restaurant in London’s Mayfair to find out if Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London is a sure-fire success or if the concept has been lost in translation.
Location, location, location
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in Dubai boasts an enviable location overlooking the turtle lagoon at Jumeriah Al Naseem. A place where turquoise waters, lush vegetation and glimpses of the world-famous Burj Al Arab set the scene for a delightful dining experience.
In London, Il Borro sits on the edge of Berkley Street in the heart of Mayfair, easily one of the capital’s most desirable neighbourhoods. Situated in a building that dates back to the 18th century, Il Borro is in good company, with neighbours including Amazónico London, Hakkasan Mayfair, Gymkhana, Novikov and Sexy Fish.
Style and service
Whether visiting Il Borro in the Emirates or the United Kingdom, diners can expect the same excellent service led by a predominantly Italian team. General Manager Alberto Michieli, a familiar face at Il Borro Dubai, is currently heading up the London operation, adding his charisma and a sense of familiarity to proceedings.
Both locations boast a warm atmosphere to complement the neutral colour palate and elegant furnishings. Whilst Dubai has the advantage of a small terrace, London’s spacious venue spans two floors, complete with a cosy fireplace, an abundance of white marble and rustic wood panelling. The first floor (where we’d recommend you reserve a seat) features an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven and a private dining room. No matter where you dine, one of Il Borro’s famous Negronis is a pre-dinner must.
The clientele is similar at both locations, offering a mix of Emiratis, well-heeled Dubai expats and city bankers to add to the refined atmosphere. Brand recognition is so apparent that at least six of the tables surrounding us on the evening we dined were occupied by UAE residents.
The London menu features many of Dubai’s signature dishes. We, however, left our meal in the more than capable hands of Alberto Michieli, whose carefully chosen selection took us on a culinary tour of Tuscany. Il Borro’s Tuscan signatures use fresh ingredients sourced directly from the family estate’s organic farm, ensuring consistency across both restaurants.
The carpaccio di rape rosse (£19.50/AED 80) is a beautiful starter and a fantastic vegetarian option, presenting thin slices of sweet beetroot juxtaposed against creamy goat cheese and finished with the textural crunch of pistachios.
Sticking to menu items available across both the Dubai and London menu, the gamberetti all’aglio e rosmarino (£23/AED 98) showcases simple cooking, where the plate of Josper grilled prawns with garlic, lemon oil and fresh herbs let the flavours do the talking. Yet, the robust risotto ai porcini (£27.50/AED 118) is our favourite dish of the evening. The piping hot mixture features the expected al dente Acquerello Carnaroli rice with aromatic porcini mushrooms and an abundance of parmesan.
Il Borro’s cheesecake with Tahitian vanilla pods and blueberry compote remains our must-order dessert. Still, the sfogliatina calda di mele (£15) we tried for the first time in London is a worthy runner-up. The warm apple tart encased in thick pastry and served with vanilla ice cream offered the perfect antidote to a rainy London evening. The weather was perhaps the only significant factor differentiating the dining experience in the UK from that of the UAE, which can only be a good thing.
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro has brought its modern Italian cuisine from Dubai to London, and is well worth a visit, even if you’re a regular at the Middle Eastern original. So, if you’re heading home for the holidays or booking a long weekend in London, you know where to go to enjoy a taste of Dubai.
GO: Visit https://ilborrotuscanbistro.co.uk for reservations and more information.