Monsieur Le Gris has fattened me up like a Sarlat goose after two weeks in Burgundy, so a weekend back in London just in time for the Olympic Closing Ceremony was most welcome.
That is, until we were invited for a tasting menu at Sette, Frankie Dettori and Marco Pierre White’s latest venture on Sydney Street, Chelsea. It is to racing what PJ’s is to polo and word has it that after the third night Sette had already become the regular hang-out for the American water polo team.
The opening party had various celebrities and locals guzzling copious amounts of prosecco and even during a quiet August night there was an endless stream of the Chelsea set flitting in and out of the basement bar.
Upstairs the restaurant is tastefully decorated; wooden floors, red leather dining chairs complimented by crisp white linen-clad tables. The atmosphere is calm Italian contemporary and boasts a stunning red Berkel prosciutto slicer. Also I must mention that the lighting is perfect: low enough to create ambience but not too dark that one is handed a magnifying glass with an inbuilt torch (à la Loulou’s at 5 Hertford Street.) It’s the perfect Chelsea location for habitués of haunts such as The Surprise yet for those who want a little more sophistication from their evening.
Pictured above: The dining room at Sette in Chelsea
<p> The chef in residence is Leonardo Paesani, who wasn’t going to let me get away with just a forkful of linguine and a rocket salad. A tasting menu had been arranged in our honour. We sat down at a table with our host who offered Monsieur le Gris the extensive wine list, with some lovely Chianti Rufina, Barolo Paesi Tuoi and Tignanello from Tuscany as well as Barbarescos from Piedmont – which was promptly returned.
“Mais they are all Italian wines.”
“Well we are in an Italian restaurant, darling.”
Oh dear, I hope this wasn’t going to be a problem; after all, I must ensure the Frog Prince is kept happy, stimulated and aroused at all times else I would fail in my duty as gastro-submissive.
We started with a selection of antipasti of prosciutto and salami followed by vitello tonnato, which although authentic in its taste and presentation did not quite possess that melt in the mouth quality as the veal was a little dry.
“You see, in a blind tasting one shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the veal and the tuna sauce, that’s what makes a good vitello tonnato.”
“Oh, Monsieur Le Gris, I still have so much to learn,” I said, excited at the prospect of a blind tasting… Would he cover my eyes with one of his Hermes silk ties perhaps?
“Mais non, I wear Battistoni ties. Hermès is déclassé.” I stand corrected, chastened.
Suddenly the wild card appeared; prawn cocktail. Now I know prawn cocktail is making an ironic comeback but I found this un-Italian starter rather a shock. It wasn’t on the menu so perhaps this crept in as a special gesture to pay tribute to the British Olympic success. Needless to say, the prawn cocktail was a hit with everyone at the table and, yes, it was very good but it still wasn’t very… Italian. It reminded me of childhood lunches spent at Foxtrot Oscars.
Monsieur Le Gris’ confusion over the prawn cocktail was quickly dispelled by the appearance of tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, which he agreed was perfectly al dente and not too garlicky. (He often complains that the British over garlic their food.)
“You Brits went from being garlic agnostics to fanatics after too many trips to the Costa del Sol in the Seventies. It’s a cheap trick and in Italy and France it is usually only eaten by the peasants.”
“Oh Monsieur Le Gris, sometimes its impossible to please you,” I sigh, feeling a tinge of guilt at my own fondness for garlic. He has already hinted at a new rule of separate bedrooms if I am to disobey him and indulge in this fiery fiend at dinner.
Our next course was delicious plates of branzino (seabass) cooked with fresh tomatoes and herbs, accompanied by French beans, not overcooked. Thankfully, a garlic-free dish.
Sette’s menu on the whole has a good range of choice and isn’t too large. I’m always suspicious of a restaurant with an endless menu. I rather fancied the look of the pappardelle with broad beans and pecorino as well as the tagliata being devoured at the next table. I was also happy to see that all the dishes were very keenly priced: around £10 for a starter and £24 for a main.
Sette is the perfect restaurant for a small group of people who want to capture the Chelsea vibe in a sophisticated setting without breaking the bank. I can see it becoming a regular haunt for the local sophisticates and I liked the feel of the place. The downstairs bar is also smart and cosy and proved to be a popular pit stop for those en route to and from parties.