Review: Paper Moon, Raffles at The OWO
The Paper Moon story began back in 1977, when the original restaurant opened in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. Helmed by Pio Galligani and his wife Enrica Del Rosso, the mission was to create somewhere which offered ‘good value honest Italian cuisine, in a relaxed congenial environment’ – inspired, in part, by the 1973 film of the same name. The eatery quickly became a favourite with the glamorous Milanese locals, and went on to expand all over the world, opening sites everywhere from Istanbul to Doha. And now, UK diners can get a taste of the action too, thanks to a new outpost found within one of the biggest hotel openings of the century, Raffles London at The OWO.
The venue is certainly a worthy host. Housed within Winston Churchill’s Old War Office, the hotel opened its doors this September following an eight-year restoration project, complete with 120 lavish bedrooms, a Guerlain spa and palatial interiors throughout. Paper Moon is one of a whopping nine restaurants there, but it manages not to get lost amid everything else that’s going on. Instead, the eatery stands firmly on its own two feet – a destination in its own right.
I visited on a recent Wednesday evening and the restaurant was buzzing, with white-clothed tables filled with groups of friends and high-flying City workers, and stylish couples perched at the bar. There’s a real sense of occasion from the moment you arrive, helped by the ultra-chic interiors, which are designed to resemble a traditional Italian house (albeit a high-end one). Think sleek mirrored walls, a terracotta palette, olive trees, travertine marble, and black-and-white photographs of old Hollywood stars.
The restaurant opens out onto the OWO’s courtyard, and in summer months you’ll be able to dine al fresco. But alas, it was a rainy November evening so my friend and I settled into our table inside, deciding to offset the weather with a fruity blood orange-infused margarita, which we sipped while perusing the extensive menu. This offers a wide array of classic Milanese dishes separated into antipasti, primi, secondi, pizze, proposte leggere (sides) and dessert – a mix of Paper Moon signatures and some newbies.
Like all the best Italian restaurants, Paper Moon is all about top-quality produce, and this certainly comes across in the dishes. We kicked things off with some sharing starters: the aubergine parmigiana, a perfectly sized mini version of the classic dish made with fresh basil and mozzarella from Campania, and the beef tartare, which is topped with truffle. If you’re feeling extra decadent, there’s also a dedicated caviar menu featuring both Sevruga and Beluga.
Don’t go too hard on the starters though: there’s a lot of menu left to explore, and portion sizes are generous. Pastas are a definite highlight, notably the Pappardelle Paper Moon, a creamy tomato number flecked with crispy nuggets of bacon. Seafood lovers will be in heaven with the Chitarra, a type of spaghetti cooked here with squid, mussels and clams. If you’ve still got some room left for savouries (we all know the dessert stomach is separate), the secondi dishes include the signature grilled monkfish, and pan-fried beef tenderloin, plus an array of pizzas topped with everything from spicy salami to porcini mushrooms.
Whatever you do, be sure to finish with a dolci: there’s a standout white chocolate sphere served with passion fruit mousse and topped with hazelnuts, or a classic panna cotta with almond crumble. All this can be paired with wines from the impressive menu, which focuses on varieties from all regions of Italy, as well as a selection of champagne. The cherry on the cake? Friendly waiters who are only too happy to help you navigate through the menu and recommend dishes.
THE FINAL WORD
Paper Moon’s tried-and-tested concept lives up to expectation, remaining true to its Milanese roots while adding a new London edge. With its grand location and indulgent Italian menu, this glossy restaurant is off to a strong start and is fast becoming a hotspot for the capital’s fashion elite.