I’d heard from a few people that Il Leone was absolutely fabulous. I got the impression in my mind of casual, loud Italian restaurant with some tasty Italian food. The guests made gregarious by excessive consumption of reasonably priced red wine. Boy do I miss the old Strega.
So, it turned out to be very different from my mental image. The place is actually quite smart. They have a small lounge next to the bar on the one side. Very comfortable (and expensive) leather couches keep the big screen TV company. The restaurant side has about 10(?) tables which were filled with well-behaved people. I think the reason being that the red wine is not cheap at all. The decor is quite smart and modern with effective lighting which creates a pleasant, soft mood.
There were 6 of us and none of us had any starters. 3 of us had the seared tuna (R95) for main (very Italian), served with mash and steamed veggies. It was good but not much different from the seared tuna I would get at a lot of restaurants in Cape Town. One person had a pasta (R40), he reckoned that while there was nothing wrong with it, it didn’t come close to a pasta at Andiamo. One person had the Nowegian Salmon (R90) and the other person had the veal (R85), neither had any complaints. For dessert we shared the crepes filled with Nutella (R40), very nice.
The service was good, the waiter knew what he was doing. Only complaint was that he was quite scarce. It detracts from the meal when one has to spend an inordinate amount of time wondering when the waiter is going to make an appearance. The wine list is pricey. I couldn’t find much under R100. We ended up drinking wine which cost R145 per bottle which seemed to be the best value, but 3 bottles later it really inflated the bill.
We had 2 bottles of water and it annoyed me a little that without consultation they bring Italian water. This bugs me for 2 reasons, 1) it’s R25 a bottle and 2) it has a massive amount of air miles attached to it. Ethical consumers will appreciate being offered water which hasn’t been flown around the world. If they want to make your experience more Italian, they must just relabel local water with an Italian sounding/looking label. Seeing as they are part of the Mastrantonio chain, that shouldn’t be difficult.
The bill was over R200 a head, which is pretty hectic. At those prices I’d rather be eating at the Showroom or Jardine (admittedly the wine did inflate the bill). I think Il Leone is nice but I don’t think it’s fantastic nor is it great value. If I want Italian, I will still go to Andiamo.
22 Cobern Street (Cnr of Prestwich)
Tel: 021 421 0071