Lorenzo Berni never tires of telling stories. And the stories are so amazing that you quite forget why you arrived at his restaurant — the Maritime by San Lorenzo at Taj Lands End — in the first place.
Berni has just opened his third restaurant, the first outside UK, to celebrate 50 years in business and it is inside this restaurant that we sit across the table with the 84-year-old who started the San Lorenzo brand in London, back in 1963.
“My wife Mara [she passed away recently] and I have always served authentic home-cooked Italian fare for our patrons,” says Berni, who is now helped by daughter Marina in the business. After his first restaurant at London’s Knightsbridge became famous (his regular patrons over the years included the likes of the entire Beatles gang, Mick Jagger, Princess Diana and Pandit Ravishankar), Berni opened his second restaurant in Wimbledon. It’s a favourite with many sports stars including Boris Becker. In fact, Becker’s son Noah is Berni’s godson.
So what made him select Mumbai for the third restaurant? “I came to India on a holiday in 2006 and met some officials from the Taj group. Nothing materialised at that time; but when this hotel had a space free for a niche brand, we got talking again. Things clicked and here we are, with our simple and wholesome authentic Italian menu,” he says.
We are keen to try out the food when the owners are not around, so we come back a few days later for a meal. We ask for the Insalata Tricolore to start off — a perfect detox option with mozzarella, tomatoes and steamed avocado, served separately in a long dish. The risottos – we try the one with mushrooms – are devoid of the heavy cream versions we are used to in most Mumbai eateries, but genuinely yummy. In the mains, the Spigola Griglia (grilled Basa) and the Angus beef Tenderloin are the standout dishes. Cooked just right and retaining the flavours of the fish and the meat respectively, we would definitely recommend these two. To wind up the meal, we opt for the Tiramisu, a light and almost airy concoction, though liberally doused with alcohol.
We remember Berni telling us: “I have Indian paintings in my London establishment and would often take my family to Indian dinners. San Lorenzo’s Indian connect has always been very strong; Maritime will prove how right I am.” If the quality of the food stays as good as it is, the third outlet will soon be as famous as the first two.
Where: Maritime, Taj Land’s End, Bandra West
Meal for two: Rs 5,000