“Some believe the ghost of Freddie Mercury still walks the kitchen.”
There are many memorable stories I hear during a few hours at Villa di Geggiano, Chiswick’s premier fine dining residence, and that’s one of the best.
Other tales involve former diners Depeche Mode, Will.i.am and Snoop Dogg, but I like the idea of the Queen legend being a spiritual presence on site. If it’s good enough for one of our greatest rock stars, it’s good enough for me.
Given the quality of the food and drink at 66-68 Chiswick High Road, if there was an afterlife I can think of worse places to spend an eternity. It’s a kind of magic I’ve rarely experienced in any restaurant.
My partner Rachel and I are in town as part of a 36-hour weekend session of fine dining, theatre and culture, and although Chiswick is a bit of a trek from our St James’ Park hotel (around six miles), it’s well worth the trip.
En route we pass the “I Saw You Coming” style shops lampooned by Harry Enfield; high end furniture stores for folks with too much cash, next to shops specialising in bric-a-brac. It’s clearly a moneyed area, but the good news is you don’t need to be a lottery winner to enjoy a special meal.
And there’s no mistaking the eatery when you get there. A glorious frontage in homage the Italian villa which inspired it. It doesn’t so much whisper its presence as scream proudly at you. As well it might.
The original Tuscany villa has been around for centuries, and with hundreds of years of expertise to draw on, it’s little wonder their wine is second to none.
After Prosecco and snacks offered by our excellent culinary MC Lukasz Borowski, we’re shown to our table in a glorious dining room decked out with jaw-dropping blue treelike centrepiece. (Imagine an Avatar tree rendered in Fuzzy Felt). The tactile light stands almost beg you to stroke them; they’re reminiscent of the deer antlers dotted around the room.
With a grand piano dominating the far end of the room, the style is eclectic, eccentric and stylish. Yet it works perfectly.
As does the menu, a dazzling, affordable array of pastas, steaks, and more. The wine list is a feast for anyone who loves a good tipple. I stick to my usual rule of anything over 13 per cent, and our expert sommelier does a fine job of choosing a light red; the 2015 Franz Haas Pinot Noir is ideal.
It’s lunchtime after all and we don’t want to be staggering round the streets of Chiswick like a couple of refugees from Absolutely Fabulous.
My tagliatelle starter with truffles is beautifully al dente, and the Beef Tenderloin fillet with Wild Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce is a work of art. Cooking it ’medium to well done’ is a balancing act, but the behind-the-scenes wizards nail it.
Rachel’s Tuna Steak with Grilled Pumpkin and Vegetable Gremolada is equally exquisite.
Head Chef is a fresh-faced looking Emanuele Morisi, and unlike some restaurants which are a frenzy of behind-the-scenes activity, his team are all calm under pressure. Admittedly we have arrived at a quiet spot. After racing from East Yorkshire to London and enjoying a meal near Victoria the night before, we’re glad of the calm.
Given the fact the property pretty much backs onto recording studio Metropolis, where some of the biggest artist in the world create their audio masterpieces, it’s hardly surprising Mr Mercury used to pop in for dinner so often.
When you come this far for a meal, you hope it’s going to pay off and for both of us, there’s not a weak link in the chain. From our starters to desserts, we’re treated like royalty, and could spend all afternoon chatting to grande formaggio Ilona Pacia, a kindred spirit whose love of art and psychology has ensured diners get the best possible experience for their money.
We think we’ll head back to our hotel after dessert (the Tiramisu and Chocolate Mousse with Mango and Red Chilli Chutney is to die for), but Ms Pacia’s tour of the property, and her stories about Freddie and other music legends are endlessly wonderful.
Some restaurants are all about good food and wine. For us, a visit to Villa di Geggiano is like a history and art lesson as well.
The dessert wine is out of this world, not least because of the extraordinary monogrammed glasses.
If you are dropping in for lunch or dinner, try the (deep breath) Capezzana Conte Contini Bonacossa Vin Santo Di Carmignano. The dried apricot and fig flavours will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth.
At one point I consider staying until evening, but some of the top brass in British TV are having one of their posh meals and the team are busy prepping for their arrival, so we decide not to outstay our welcome. There’s a chance regular visitor Sir Trevor Nunn might also pop in for a bite. It’s that sort of a place.
I do know we’ll be back one day, preferably in the spring or summer when we can experience one of their outdoor music sessions.
So, we intended to stay for a couple of hours, and around four hours later we say a sad farewell having enjoyed an unforgettable dining experience.
If you want stunning Tuscan cuisine without travelling to Italy for the privilege, this is the next best thing to being there.
We can’t wait to go back.