Veneta, St James’s

I often get asked about my favourite restaurants in London… the Salt Yard group nearly always features amongst my top eateries list. I have tried them all: Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern, Ember Yard and now Veneta, and can truly vouch for the high quality of inventive food, the welcoming concepts and the convivial atmosphere, in all five restaurants.


Last week I joined a small group of foodies for a tasting feast of Ben Tish’s new menu at Veneta. We were joined by Venetian chef and Instagram sensation, Skye Mc Alpine who added a touch of whimsical charm to the lunch, decorating the tables with beautiful objects and inspiring us all with her knowledge of Italian cuisine.


Veneta is the proud owner of a decadent raw bar, and we were treated to a beautiful spread of fresh seafood from Rose shrimps marinated in lardo to Crab with spiced mayonnaise.


After taking endless photos of the amazing spread we sat down for a wonderfully civilised meal. Samples of Veneta’s pasta, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes arrived in quick succession, all smelling and looking delicious.


My favourite recipes were the Chicken braised in almond milk with Medjool dates and saffron and the Wild mushroom and asiago pie and pumpkin cream with sage. Both were exceptional combinations of appealing textures and contrasting flavours. Porcini and truffle risotto with gremolata was comforting and tasty with a woody warmth from the mushrooms and luxurious truffle, the perfect Autumn dish.


Dessert included a sublime flourless chocolate, chestnut and rosemary cake made by Skye, and topped with romantic wilting roses. It seemed a shame to cut into the decorative masterpiece.

Veneta is found in the new St James’s development nearby to Piccadilly station. With a menu of brilliant Venetian food, a lavish raw bar and a typically Italian hot chocolate machine, there is something for everyone, at any time of day.

More information about Veneta and book a table here.

Things to do in Venice

This magical drowned city is quite unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited before. Functioning almost solely for tourists you’d assume the city would be tacky and lacking in culture. Quite the opposite. Beautiful bridges and basilicas, hidden foodie delights and a breathtakingly view from every street and every square. Let me introduce you to Italy’s most miraculous city, Venice.

To stay

Generator Hostel Venice – feel part of the coolest club in town at this hip and handsome hostel on Giudecca island, opposite the main island of Venice. With spectacular views and cool retro design you definitely get more than just good value for money!

To eat

All’Arco – avoid the tourist traps and head for this little bacari for a selection of cicchetti (small snacks). After picking 9 assorted mouthful sized bites we sat outside on the street with the rest of the guests. I can particular recommended the grilled aubergine with tomato and cheese.

Cip’s Club –  With the most spectacular views over Venice, this outdoors restaurant at the smart Ciprani Hotel is booked early in advance. Sip at a light Italian white wine, devour the breadcrumbed veal escalope and marvel at the sunset over the water. Perfect for a special celebration or occasion.

Arte della Pizza – Don’t expect to find tasty pizza on every street, it isn’t famous here like other Italian cities. If you do crave it everyone agrees that Arte della Pizza is the place to go. Avoid the precooked thick pizza on display, instead order a fresh pizza with your own choice of toppings. With such delicious dough and fresh ingredients, it really is the best in town.

Trattoria Ca D’Oro alla Vedova – famous for its irresistible polpette (meatballs) this traditional trattoria is hidden at the end of a narrow alley. For fresh, seasonal and reasonably priced vibrant Italian food and wine this is a brilliant option. I opted for an exquisite plate of Bucatini pasta with bacon, onions, tomato and pecorino.

To drink

Londra Palace bar – most will instruct you to try the famous Harry’s Bar for a Bellini… Don’t succumb to the hype, the drinks here are made with frozen peaches and cost a small fortune for an even smaller glass! Instead visit the luxurious and centrally located Londra Palace hotel for a properly made peachy pink Bellini. This bar will only use peaches when they are in season and sweet, in Spring order a Rossini (with strawberries), for Autumn a Tiziano (with red grapes) and in Winter choose a Mimosa (with oranges).

La Cantina– the waiters here are extremely proud of their Venetian lifestyle, and sneer customers who act like annoying tourists. Do what the locals do… Order a cheese and meat board to eat and their own home brewed Morgana beer to drink.

Al Merca– cheap and cheerful this little bar by Rialto market is always full of happy locals. Soak up the street atmosphere whilst enjoying a 2 euro glass of light and bubbly prosecco.

Do Mori – This classic cicchetti bar is a Venetian institution. This atmospheric little venue offers delicious bites to eat and flavoursome house wine.

Café culture

Caffe del Doge – Venice doesn’t have many great options for decent coffee. This concealed café offers one of the creamiest and richest roasts in the city. Try their speciality cappuccino topped in white chocolate crumbs.

Torrefazione marchi – This was one of my favourite finds in Venice, a charming and popular café/bar in the Cannaregio neighbourhood. The coffee aroma wafts out the door and encourages you in. Stand at the bar and order a Venexian (coffee, cocoa and milk foam) or buy a packet of their caffe della sposa ground coffee (made from eight of the best blends Arabica blends) to take home.

To see

Bridge of Sighs – Venice’s famous Bridge of Sighs was designed by Antonio Contino and was built at the beginning of the 17th century. Spanning the Rio di Palazzo (Palace River), the bridge was intended to connect the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison, which was situated directly across the river. One story says that if a couple kisses under the bridge while drifting below on a gondola at sunset, they will enjoy eternal love. Thus, the “sighs” are said to come from lovers who are overwhelmed by the romance of the whole scene.

Santa Maria della Salute – The magnificent Roman Catholic church is located in the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. It stands on a narrow piece of land between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco so the church is visible when entering the main Piazza San Marco by water.

San Sebastien church – this beautiful church showcases the work of Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese. The stunning ceiling was completely restored back to full glory in 2012.

Rialto market – open from Monday to Saturday spend a morning strolling round this vivid food market and see endless stalls of tasty produce. Stop by a local bar to refresh with a glass of Prosecco and a snack.

To do

Go on a gondola ride – hail a striped gondola driver and float around the town for 40 minutes in this romantic mode of transport. You will see remote streets only accessible by water and wonderful little bridges. Don’t try to bargain, every boat should charge 80 euros for the standard trip, and the boats can fit up to 6 people in. Those feeling a little more adventurous should hail a Traghetto (the decommissioned old gondolas) the quickest way of travelling across the Grand Canal and perfect for accessing the city’s more obscure streets.

Climb St Mark’s clock tower – there is much less exercise involved than you’d expect. Pay your entrance fee, travel up in the lift and admire the impressive views over the whole water-work city.

Peggy Guggenheim – it was a joy to visit another Guggenheim collection. This wonderful modern art museum exhibits the private collection of American heiress Peggy Guggenheim. As the former wife of Max Ernst there are some brilliant pieces by him as well as works by Pollock, Picasso and Braque.

Enrica Rocca – Learn to cook with Venice’s favourite chef, Enrica Rocca. Having just received rave reviews for her cookbook ‘Venice on a plate’ there is no-one better to teach you about Italian culinary traditions. Her website also offers the best tips for staying and eating in the city.

To shop

VizioVirtu – a chocoholic’s heaven this little shop sells beautiful hand crafted treats. We tried the delicious and rich ganache cake.

Casa del Parmigiano – cheese freaks should head here for the best Parmesan and stock up on Italian delights like the popular Planeta olive oil.

Atelier Sagalin do Daniela Ghezzo– a magical and old fashioned shoe emporium. Admire the collection of amazing vintage pairs or design your own couture tailored pair.

Island Escapes

Lido island – when the weather is warm in Venice many head to the nearby beach island, just 20 minutes away from the centre of town by Vaparetto. Join the crowds at the rowdy public beach or enjoy the luxury of a private cabin for the day.

Torcello – a quaint and quiet almost deserted island. Appreciate the beautiful old church buildings and eat at the wonderful Locanda Cipriani restaurant, the rose filled terrace is particularly pretty.

Mazzorbo – this idyllic island is ideal for relaxing walks along the canals. I urge you to visit the spectacular Venissa Michelin starred restaurant. Owned by the Treviso-based wine and Prosecco maker, Bisol, the focus here is on immaculately presented fresh and healthy local fare. Sit outside where you can be surrounded by the rare Prosecco vines and breathe in the fragrant scented air. Our meal here was a real highlight of the trip to Venice.

Murano – Known for its colourful glass-blowing traditions, wander round this sweet island spying the craftsmen at work, and admire the bright glass objects in the museum or shops.

Burano – this picturesque island is impossible not to photograph. Filled with candy coloured houses everywhere, tourists can browse in the lace shops, dine at the casual eateries or just wander amongst the rainbow scenery.

Venissa, Mazzorbo Island, Venice

Venice is incredibly beautiful but it can be claustrophobic fighting your way through the hordes of tourists in the heat. For our final day in the floating city, we ventured out to the nearby islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Mazzorbo, all reachable in under an hour on a vaporetto boat. It was a heavenly respite – idyllic, quiet and quaint towns with humble offerings but beautiful sites to visit.

Mazzorbo is the lesser known but very picturesque island. Located next door to colourful Burano, you can walk from one to the other via the connecting bridge. Ideal for a calm stroll along the canal and a long lunch, it is the perfect day out. We visited Mazzorbo to dine at the island’s destination restaurant, Venissa. Wine and Prosecco maker Gianluca Bisol has resuscitated the rare vines and revived the wine production here. The menu focusses on local fare and home grown vegetables are shown great respect, they are given the starring role throughout the set courses.

Guests can dine indoors in the stylish restored rooms, or sit outside surrounded by the vineyards… if the weather permits I would recommend dining al fresco, I cannot think of a lovelier setting. The emphasis at Venissa is primarily on the wine made from their own grapes; with wine of this quality it is hardly surprising that it takes such a lead role in the dining experience. That said, the food excels in its own right, intricately and artistically arranged on the plates, and using the best seasonal ingredients available.

Different menus offer varying numbers of courses… we were completely in the care of the chef who brought out dish after dish, each paired perfectly with another glass of wine or Prosecco. Simple ingredients are adorned with seasoning and floral garnishes. Two lone spinach leaves from the garden arrive with a splattering of olive oil, black olives and a sprinkling of vine flowers. Next, pretty but spiky artichokes with beetroot puree was an invigorating dish. Eel cooked in Modera with green celery and wild chard was more unusual, delicately flavoured, lightly cooked fish.

Pasta courses followed, green ravioli filled with potato and thick linguine with marigold butter, these dishes were strange but amazingly vibrant in flavour, as if plucked straight from the wild. The meat was divine, of the highest quality with indulgent sauces: lamb with peas and onions, deer with cherries and berries. The top Bisol wines continued to arrive at the table, each one with its own fermentation technique and unique character and taste. Dessert was another palate cleansing delight; a citrus salad with orange and grapefruit granite.

It was the healthiest and one of the most memorable Michelin star meals I have ever eaten: immaculate presentation, the very best wine and a dreamlike setting that seems too good to be true.

Those wishing to stay a little longer at Venissa can book a room at their restored and converted manor house hotel, elegantly high ceilinged and beautifully decorated. Open from March to November.

More information and book here: