The fan club for Jason Atherton’s empire is continuing to grow. Holly is a bigger fan than me, she’s actually met him and managed to get to the Dubai restaurant, and so of course she suggested we go to his new opening in Victoria.

Hai Cenato is a new one for him, going down the Italian route and at much more affordable prices. It’s in the brand new Nova development which is housing a number of new and wonderful restaurants. More to come on other openings, but once you can find the place (be warned it’s a very confusing station to get out of and navigate to) you’ll find a cluster of brand new glass buildings and the bright lights of restaurants underneath.

You walk in through yet another dark curtain, just like Jason’s Temple & Sons restaurant. We visited in their early days so things were a little chaotic in the service, they’ve also introduced different levels of waiters. This meant we found ourselves ordering drinks with one lady only to have her rush off and not take her order because her job was just pouring water and bringing the plates. I can understand this in his smarter restaurants but for what’s meant to be a more low key Italian offering this was a little over the top.

Hai Cenato, Victoria

Nevertheless we’re here for the food and so tackled the menu. The beauty of going with fellow Queenswood alumni means a lot of food is ordered to share amongst us all. First up Cobble Lane cured salamis and meat, breads and olives. Would skip this dish next time, nothing special and a little stingy on the bread. On the other hand the grilled octopus and cornish squid with braised lentils, cured bacon and green chilli salsa verde was lovely, very tasty indeed.

Rather than get a pasta dish as a main we opted to share the corzetti with aged beef bolognese, tomato and sage burnt butter. This was nice and unusual pasta which haven’t had before but wouldn’t say it was an absolute winner. The Bolognese was rich in flavour but again something you could do at home, dare I say it.

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For mains, Holly and I shared pizzas, first up the Pizza Bianca with ricotta, fontina, artichoke, rocket and pancetta. Now I know white pizzas can be rather controversial but I love them and this one was great. Our second pizza was the guest chef pizza by Tom Kerridge, ground spiced venison, Milano salami, gorgonzola, sorrel and lemon zest. Very nice as well although would be tad rich to have on your own, glad we got to halve on the other one too.

We managed to tuck into Polly’s main which was the confit guinea fowl and Barolo risotto, pancetta and parmesan. It divided the table with Polly not a fan at all but I rather liked it, again very rich and a full bodied red wine taste coming through.

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After all saying we didn’t think we needed a pudding, of course we ordered a couple to share. Polly and I with the mint stracciatella ice cream in a cone, which was with powerful fresh mint which unfortunately wasn’t the taste of childhood we were all expecting. The other most unusual dessert was the toasted brioche bun with caramel ice cream sandwiched in the middle, completely bizarre but moorish in a ‘this is strange but I want to keep eating’ it way.

All in all a successful meal, although not our favourite in the Jason Atherton franchise. Great pizzas but as a restaurant it feels a little confused in where it wants to sit, fine dining or a more relaxed Italian affair. Go check it 0ut yourselves and let me know what you think!

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