Sette Restaurant in the Bulgari Hotel, London is one of the most talked about restaurant launches in London right now.
And it is no wonder given it is located within the uber glamorous, yet much critiqued Bulgari Hotel.
The Bulgari Hotel is the most modern London five star hotel where the most basic room will set you back around £705, and many question the style and design in this classic European city.
I have always liked it, although having to trek to the basement via a lift to use the bathroom is definitely a major design flaw.
I have to disclose I had high expectations of this new restaurant, having been invited to review the Bulgari Restaurant, Il Ristorante Luca Fantin in Tokyo two years ago, also Italian, which I absolutely loved.
The concept for this new venue is authentic Italian from Scarpetta restaurant New York City. It opened in 2008, and quickly became one of NYC’s most coveted places for Italian and now has several outposts in other locations in the US.
Think fresh pasta, home made sauces and delicate but rich, fresh flavours.
The setting within the Bulgari Hotel is glamorous and very Knightsbridge. It includes lavish light fittings, Carrara marble bench tops, wooden floors, mirrors, live plant walls, and luxe, modern leather seats.
But it is the crowd that is entertaining here – especially at night.
The dapper global dinner crowd starts frolicking and fawnicating from about 8pm in summer, when the gentle banter of multiple languages fills the air almost as strongly as the heady scent of of luxe fragrances and eminent personalities.
Sophisticated women and men sport sharp designer blow drys and more luxury fashion labels per table than a change room on Harrod’s second floor, (which is just nearby) and the champagne and cocktails flow in full force.
Sette is certainly a chic place to hang out, slow down and soak up the showy chichi factor.
Sette has replaced Alain Ducasse’s Rivea, formerly in the hotel. The complete refurbishment and new design has seen Sette restaurant sitting upstairs, and Noilta Social (an uber sexy dark, NYC style cocktail bar) now downstairs. (The reverse of before.)
Sette even has its own private entrance on a side street assumedly so recognisable VIP guests can avoid the bustling grand hotel entrance and ensure they are not seen.
A modern circular marble bar sits upstairs in the front part of the restaurant with large mirrors, which provides an elegant location for a pre-dinner cocktails, and the cocktail list is solid and creative. Quality complimentary nuts and snacks are presented with drinks.
The menu at Sette is small but manages to be cunningly diverse. It cleverly makes you feel as if it is larger than it is.
The dishes confirm the kitchen is out to impress and acquiesce to all requests. It is prepped to cater for everyone from a supermodel to an over zealous Italian in the calorie department.
After a long, slow drink at the bar. We moved to the table.
A designer style complimentary bread offering was brought out in a cute metal tin which was as gourmet and enticing as you get anywhere. The tin included a mini Italian bread stick, rolls and two gourmet bread scrolls with ham, cheese and capsicum which tasted home made, soft and comforting.
Three dishes accompanying the bread offered quality olive oil, a tomato tapenade and home made rich, flavoured butter. A decdent way to start the meal.
But after so much promise, the first dish was a let down.
Tuna Susci, stuffed with carrots, micro greens, and preserved truffle was not the highlight of the meal, although someone calorie counting would be overjoyed to find such a light, low carb dish in such a super glamorous Italian restaurant.
It looked stylish too; like a plate straight off an instagram restaurant review. Neat, clean and enticing. Tidy parcels of baby pink tuna wrapped around grated carrot and greens with miniature designer mushrooms inbetween.
Whilst fresh and light, the dish is screaming for flavour, and carrots and tuna are not my favourite flavour combination.
Fortunately, our waiter rescued us. He insisted on bringing the creamy polenta with fricasse of truffled mushrooms.
It was a move that quite possibly saved the meal and perhaps even the entire culinary experience for me, as it put the whole dinner on a new path. Ironically, I disliked polenta greatly, until then.
The creamy polenta was presented in a round, metal based round saucepan on a plate with a copper based saucepan next to it with the fricasse mushroom sauce, DIY style, so that the sauce could be poured onto the polenta as and when we chose.
The richness and flavour of this dish was irresistible, and this opened my mind to the exciting possiblities of the rest of the menu.
The polenta was soft, and creamy and had just the right amount of butter to melt in the mouth, whilst the mushroom sauce was a rich slightly sweet flavour hit. The combination was a taste sensation. We couldn’t resist it.
The service throughout the meal was exceptional. Our waiter regularly guided our menu choices on both food and wine an intermittently gave us insights into cooking methods and produce.
The braised short ribs with vegetable and farro risotto and shaved parmesan, (yes, we had 3 entrees to share as a starter) from New York is a dish many who have dined at Scarpetta in New York rave about.
And they do so for good reason – but this is rich food. Too rich for a summer menu in London, but a sensational taste and texture experience nevertheless.
The meat fell away from the bone, and the sweet, tender, rich flavour warmed the soul. The risotto was heavy in texture and rich in flavour. It s a big dish in every sense of the word.
With exceptional wines by the glass as recommended by our well informed waiter, I was getting excited.
The most famous dish on the whole menu is said to be the spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce.
But with the greatest of respect to the chefs – anyone can make their own version of that. We couldn’t bring ourselves to sacrifice the menu’s other temptations for something so seemingly simple.
Instead we selected the duck and foie gras ravioli with marsala reduction, which was a blonde bombshell of a dish. Compared to the presentation of the previous dishes, however, this looked underwhelming.
Looking at the yellow ravioli parcels with sauce drizzled unelegantly on top, and a splattering of micro herbs, I didn’t expect much in the way of flavour, but I was pleasantly stunned to be proven so wrong.
Small, gently warmed parcels of transparent yellow, home made pasta oozing braised duck leg and foie gras fell apart as soon as it hit the mouth.
Fresh butter, sweet marsala sauce, delicately thin pasta and tender duck hit every taste bud in my mouth at once. Extraordinary.
Being Australian, my lamb standards are as high as you can get, but again the rack of roast lamb with artichoke, fava and mint was exceptional.
Four generously fat ( but lean) ribs sat on the vegetable mix and were perfectly cooked medium rare and bursting with flavour.
This dish looks very elegant, and is a great summer dish.
We also had the halibut with white asparagus puree, charred asparagus, baby leek, and almond vinaigrette. A sizeable fillet of perfectly cooked fish blended seemlessly with the mini-montage of vegetables underneath.
Another well presented filling dish perfect for warm London summer nights.
It is rare to be let down by a desert menu in an Italian restaurant, and we certainly were not here.
There is an appropriately diverse dessert menu, and we picked the espresso budino which arrived in a glass, with decadent hazelnut gelato, salted caramel sauce and chocolate biscotti. Truly bellisimo.
The valhorna chocolate cake was another designer delight. It was presented on a long plate with a neatly shaped round individual chocolate cake, caramel gelato on the opposite end sitting on crumbs of chocolate biscuit with drizzles of chocolate banana toffee sauce.
Sette is serious culinary fun, from start to finish. The dishes surprise and delight with their flavours. There are some fabulous taste sensations here. The setting is glorious, the crowd sublime, but the food is the star.
The bonus of this new spot is that there’s even an affordable set lunch menu (that may not last forever so go now) and you can also dine there for breakfast.
Gorgeous. Just wear something fabulous, darling.