On arriving outside the 3 week old Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Otto on Fuming Lu, next to Guyi, I have to admit I was slightly put off by the cheap-looking cafe sign that had words like "pizza", "delivery" and "take-away" in the background. But I am pleased to say that I followed my theory of never judging on appearances, because the sign is definitely nothing to go by.
I was greeted at the entrance by a waitress who opened the door for me and certainly didn't lead me into a "cheap cafe". The attention to detail in Otto is exquisite. The simplicity of the overall design makes for a chic yet relaxed space, thanks to the renowned Italian Designer Luca Trazzi designing the interior. He is no stranger to 'chic', having designed for the likes of Illy, Swatch and Porsche to name but a few.
Without being too outspoken, the place oozes class, with a nice contemporary feel. The floor to ceiling glass front gives it somewhat of a 'café' feel of being able to watch life go by outside on Fuming Lu (I can't think of any other reason why Otto has "Cafe" in its name). The chocolate brown chairs and the lime green and pink table mats (surprisingly complimentary) create a lot of contrast within the restaurant whilst keeping a very simple look. Everything inside seems to have had a lot of thought put into it, (obviously ‘Luca Trazzi thought’) with small finishing touches like the logo on the linen napkins and the 'arty' knives and forks that sit extremely comfortably in your hands. What I liked was that the kitchen was on display, behind a glass wall. You could see the chefs preparing the food and that to me is always a bold and very confident move in a restaurant. It adds to the whole dining experience and gives you a better appreciation of the food, being reminded that someone is slaving over a hot stove to prepare your lunch!
Two oddities though. I can think of no reason why there would be a large flat-screen TV on the wall opposite the dining area showing BBC News, nor any reason for the bar being the length of an entire wall. I found this slightly strange, being a restaurant and not a pub/club. But I suppose the large bar is in keeping with the Mediterranean style, in that wine comes with dining and the copious amounts of bottles on display did make you want to try them, clever.
I sat down to have lunch, my napkin placed on my lap (a very European touch), I then ordered my plain diet coke, despite there being a large selection over 30 wines served by the glass, ranging from 28-288rmb per glass and was left to gaze over the menu in my own time. My friend and I ordered from the set lunch menu, a two course meal for 95 rmb. I didn't think I could quite manage the three courses (118 rmb). The choice on the set was fairly limited and a little pricey I thought.
Whilst looking at the menu we were served some fresh, Italian bread with three accompanying dips that definitely tickled the taste buds. I chose the buffet starter as an alternative to the pumpkin and ginger soup as it was a bit too hot to be eating soup. The buffet selection was not huge but hosted a variety of tastes, from salami to salmon, olives and salads along with an assortment of dressings. I had ordered chicken and mushroom penne pasta for my main and it arrived piping hot with a carbonara style sauce and apart from it being slightly too oily for me, the dish itself was simple yet tasty. My friend had ordered the Italian style pizza, that was a generous size with more than enough topping (very important in a pizza I think). His desert then arrived, a ginger black chocolate tartlet. Three mini chocolate tartlets on the plate decorated with icing sugar and caramelized orange slices. Apparently the chocolate was very tasty and the small portion was more than enough.
The service at Otto was superb, although I suppose that's not difficult considering we were amongst maybe two or three others in the restaurant. However they spoke very good English and were extremely polite but not overly. In some restaurants you kind of get the feeling that they are tying too hard and the sincerity is then lost, but here everything just seemed honest.
The food, prepared by Jade on 36's ex chef, is nothing out of the ordinary and is rather pricey. Lunch for 2 came to almost 300 rmb which is about the same price league as nearby Mesa or Magnolia. However, the whole dining experience and atmosphere would have me returning to sample their dinner menu, this time I think accompanied by a nice large glass of wine.
Location: 85 Fuming Road, near Ju Lu Road