Liòn — Rome, Italy

Liòn — Rome, Italy

Despite the tourist hordes that descend year-round on Rome, the city is remarkably resilient in keeping its secrets, especially its gastronomic hideouts which we’ve come to realise tend to be hidden in plain sight.

Case in point is the dramatically ornate Liòn. Housed on the ground floor of a 1930s pile a few streets down from the snap-happy Instagrammers in Piazza Navona, the restaurant barely announces itself to passing traffic, this despite the handsome façade and broad windows bordered in thick travertine.

Inside a historic, Rationalist building once occupied by a tourist restaurant, the architect and designer Daniela Colli has transformed the mood by weaving an intense tapestry of textures and colours. Arched friezes frame lacquered ottomans; columns are studded with mosaic tiles; circles of brass are repeated as wall screens, bar fixtures and ceiling medallions; the furniture palette fairly pops in hues of teal, turquoise and red; and the floor is paved in a dizzying harlequin of two-toned square tiles.

By comparison, chef Luca Ludovici’s classical Italian menu is a model of almost staid restraint, the number of ingredients in each dish confined where possible to three materia prima – for instance, organic rice with red prawns, bourbon bisque and tarragon, and a Fassona beef tartare hit with a turmeric mayonnaise. § 

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