Venetian vista in Bermudiana Road
More than 60 years after it opened, Little Venice finally has a water view.
The Bermudiana Road restaurant, opened in 1953 and taken over by the MEF Group in 1971, has undergone a facelift.
The focal point of the revamped dining room is a reproduction of a painting of Venice's canals by the 18th-century Italian artist Giovanni Antonio Canal — better known as “Canaletto” — that covers the southern wall of the restaurant from floor to ceiling.
The painting, reproduced on cloth-like paper one-sixteenth of an inch thick, replaces the Venetian masks, posters and “windows” that formerly occupied the space.
“I told my designer in Venice, Hermes Traveglini, ‘I haven't done everything from A to Z in 35 years, and I want the wow effect',” Emilio Barbieri, managing director of the MEF Group, said.
“He said ‘then I will bring the water'. He said it as a joke, but we have brought the canal into the restaurant. I wanted to get it as close as possible to Venice. Now, we have a water view like everyone else.”
Changes to the restaurant include a walk-in wine cellar in the space formerly occupied by Mr Barbieri's office that will allow diners to select a wine, Murano chandeliers, re-upholstered chairs, refinished marble floors, new electrical, and a kitchen re-design including new equipment. Mirrored wrought iron “doors” have been installed in two areas to create more private dining spaces. Mirrored wrought iron dividers between booths also provide increased privacy.
The wine bar next door has new granite countertops, new lighting, re-upholstered chairs and a mirrored wall behind the bar with shelving that showcases every bottle on its wine list.
Mr Barbieri travelled to Venice to meet with Mr Traveglini to agree on the changes and review the materials to be used.
The MEF boss hired contractors Sea-M Electric Ltd, RMS Construction Ltd, and Eminence Contractors Ltd to execute the project. “They have done a miracle,” Mr Barbieri said. “They were all very professional. My designer said it would take one month to do the work — but it was all done from Saturday to Saturday. I didn't want our precious customers to suffer for more than six days.”
Executive chef Danny Lim, from Malaysia, joined MEF in 1993, and Little Venice two years later. He has updated the menu with some new dishes, particularly seafood. “Our new menu focuses on simplicity, quality and freshness,” he said.
Regulars will find that some menu items have been dropped but Mr Lim said: “If there is anything that you like that you don't see on the menu, we will serve it.”
Mr Barbieri said: “It was vital to sort out the kitchen. There is a better use of space so that our chefs can give their best performance. Danny makes sure that he not only feeds the body, but feeds the soul. The only way to touch people is by cooking with the heart.”
Diners, Mr Barbieri said, have been complimentary since the restaurant re-opened ten days ago.
“The response has been spectacular,” he said. “So far, every customer has been very, very excited and they are surprised that in six days we made so many changes.”
The renovations have also been welcomed by him and his staff, Mr Barbieri said.
“When you have a new bicycle, you pedal with more enthusiasm and excitement,” he said.
“I am very excited, very pleased. The place is much more attractive. We have achieved our plan to create the ‘wow effect'.”