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Gradini can be found on the lobby level of The Pottinger hotel. Guests pass through a small bar area into the main dining room where two sides of the restaurant comprise floor-to-ceiling windows, the other two pale green walls decorated with light flowers in a classical Italian design aesthetic. High ceilings are appreciated and with the light and airy feel brought out by the windows, give way to a seemingly spacious room. Unfortunately a small number of tables are tucked away around a corner seemingly as something of an afterthought.
Starting off with a varied bread basket, unfortunately most of it tastes as if it has been sitting out for too long, while the sun-dried tomato spread that accompanies it is rather too closely akin to tomato puree. The truffled butter is a better option. The octopus salad starter, a signature dish, comprises lightly-charred octopus which is cooked well – not chewy nor underdone – with a light smokiness. A generous portion tops a salad with citrus dressing to complement the seafood. The beef carpaccio is good too, served with meaty mushroom, though the dressing is a little on the sweet side. For main courses Dover sole is deboned tableside and is cooked well. The lamb rack has a strong flavour and recommended medium it is tender and juicy. Both are served with the same unusual mix of vegetables, only some of which go with their respective dishes. Some would consider the success of a tiramisu dessert a reflection of the quality of an Italian restaurant and here it is good. The apple tart, which took 20 minutes to cook – was surprisingly small yet delicious with a crisp puff pastry and thin slices of apple. As a result it was gone all too quickly.
The bar at Gradini is a good place to kick off a meal with an aperitif as a wide range of Martinis and signature cocktails are on offer. Moving on to the wine, a good range at reasonable prices is available by the glass as well as by the bottle, while higher end tipples are also on offer. The list focuses on Italian wines with a small selection of French bottles for those who want to branch out. Unfortunately, the glass of house wine ordered seems to have been open for a while.
After a rather tepid welcome and a slightly scatty start, it is a surprise to find staff have good knowledge of the menu and can make informed recommendations. Service is nevertheless hit and miss – some dishes are presented without explanation and requests are met slowly. With the table tucked around a corner it is not easy to get the attention of staff members.
For good – but not amazing – food in a pleasant setting with average service and reasonable wine, the bill comes to $1,700 for two which is what one can expect to pay for quality ingredients found in such a central location.