Hotel restaurants are not the easiest thing to get right; even Alain Ducasse’s Rivea didn’t set London alight when it opened at the Bulgari Hotel in 2014.
This re-launch of the hotel’s dining room has corrected Rivea’s most glaring problem by swapping the drinking and dining spaces around, with the restaurant now on the ground floor and the bar moved into the basement.
Sette is the first London restaurant from New York’s Scarpetta group, which has been making waves across the Pond since the first Scarpetta opened in the Meatpacking District in 2008. It’s decked out in dark-wood panelling, with mirrored walls and 1920s-style pendant lighting, which makes for a cool and brooding atmosphere, very on-brand for the luxury Bulgari group but probably better-suited to dressed-up dinners than breezy lunches.
Homemade pasta and bread in various guises are the specialities of the Italian menu. Focaccia was served warm and fragrant from the oven, accompanied by a zesty lemon olive oil, creamy mascarpone, and a sweet and sour caponata to dunk it into.
The signature tomato spaghetti came al dente and slathered in a rich sauce, and every ingredient – from the olive oil and tomatoes to the rich Parmesan cheese – was detectable with each bite. Lobster tagliolini (with a Knightsbridge price tag of £26) didn’t fare nearly as well, with very little shellfish flavour coming through; the whole thing could have done with a good squeeze of lemon to bring it alive.
It’s not all about the carbohydrates here, though. Raw plates of yellowtail, salmon, tuna and sea bass might be followed by black cod with caramelised fennel and tomato confit, or rack of lamb with artichoke and fava beans. A starter of braised octopus was soft-centred and crisp-edged, and served with little fried potatoes and a bright spring onion vinaigrette – a well-balanced and light kick off.
Knowledgeable and friendly staff helped match wines to each course from a huge global selection with, naturally, a strong Italian focus, while a substantial cocktail list delivers strong serves laced with fragrant garnishes like kaffir lime leaf or black lava salt – move downstairs to Nolita Social bar if you want to continue your drinking to a soundtrack of live music and DJs.