“Purposefully naff, twinkly, 1970s Capri glam” that is completely at odds with the London restaurant scene right now, one reviewer from The Guardian newspaper wrote. “It feels pleasantly deranged,” wrote another for The Evening Standard.
As the traveling circus rolls into town for fashion week, London is sulking under the looming prospect of a chaotic Brexit. But Gloria —- an all-but-unspeakably trendy Shoreditch trattoria frequented by style-set types like Alexa Chung and Georgia May Jagger since it opened six months ago —- offers a dollop of escapism for hordes of bright young things. Those who are willing to grin and bear the two-hour waiting time for a table, anyway.
The recipe for success at London’s “It” restaurant of 2019 appears to be very simple: More is more is more.
Take the mirrored ceilings and gilded raspberry-ripple marble countertop of the bar area, staffed until 2 a.m. by beaming Italians in outrageously gaudy printed waistcoats. Or the twinkling dining rooms: all frilly net curtains, pink walls, kaleidoscope-patterned carpets and tiny tables, crammed with teetering piles of hand-painted ceramic crockery (think plates covered in colorful swirls and cocktail mugs shaped like heaving bosoms or ladies’ faces) that showcase gargantuan portions of Italian fare. (Enthusiastic diners have posted social media snaps of almost every dish.)
Which brings us to the food. For the most part it is actually very good, and at reasonable prices (well, for London). Homespun highlights include sloppy Neapolitan pizzas, plates of rosy-hued San Daniele ham and a 10-level lasagna, as well as spaghetti alla carbonara served steaming out of a giant round of pecorino and a pillowy soft burrata cheese with oozing innards of fresh homemade pesto.
Diet food this is not. But it hits a comfort-craving spot, thanks largely to the quality produce they say is sourced directly from small suppliers and a menu that draws smiles (and some groans) with its innuendo-laden titles: consider Fry Me A River (deep-fried octopus tentacle with saffron) or Filippo’s Big Balls (slow-cooked meatballs in tomato sauce). It’s all very silly. It’s all very jolly. And it’s all very welcome, amid the slate autumnal skies and the nonstop headlines forecasting disaster if Britain makes a disorderly exit from the European Union.
So who are the masterminds behind Gloria and its kitschy homage to sun-drenched Italian excess? The French, of course. Or more specifically, Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux. The duo runs the Big Mamma Group, the Paris-headquartered operator of eight restaurants in France as well as Circolo Popolare, the 280-seat cavernous sister restaurant to Gloria that opened near Oxford Street in June, complete with a plant-festooned and fairy-lit ceiling and what they say are 20,000 glass and liquor bottles lining its whitewashed walls.
The restaurateurs said they had been considering the London scene for some time. So why come now, when so many Europeans are leaving?
“Yes, there is Brexit and it’s a competitive market, but we saw a real opportunity for what we built in France to find new fans over here,” Mr. Lugger said. “We think the risks on the spreadsheet are all worth it.
“We don’t just deliver food — if they want that, customers can order Deliveroo,” he added. “We work hard to deliver a vibrant slice of Italy and create memorable nights out at great value for money. Well-priced food does not have to be at the expense of a high-end dining experience.”
Cheers to that. Or as the Italians at Gloria would say: “Alla salute!”