Beneath the Bvlgari Hotel London in Knightsbridge, Nolita Social is a hotel bar of uncommon eminence. Inspired by the late-night bars of New York – named after the neighbourhood north of Little Italy – the destination bar defies stiff upper lip five-star hotel convention with its lively atmosphere, also paying host to live music each week. Plush booths are sprawled around the perimeter of the basement space, but the seats at the bar are the most charming.
Here, cocktails are mixed with a degree of theatre, each named after songs from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘90s. ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is a play on a classic Old Fashioned, smoked table side using a chip of white oak. ‘Tiny Dancer’, on the other hand, is a lighter, elegant drink combining Belvedere vodka with yuzu liqueur, grapefruit and lemongrass water, topped with Prosecco (Elton would approve, I’m sure). There’s less focus on bar snacks at Nolita Social, but it’s an ideal venue for a digestif to follow dinner upstairs at Sette, the first London restaurant from the team behind Scarpetta in New York.
Having replaced Alain Ducasse’s Rivea, Sette is a predominantly Italian restaurant with a strong Italian-American accent that permeates the menu and adds some modern flair alongside a general air of glamour (think Scorsese over Coppola). As a hotel restaurant, the dining room has natural light restrictions and there’s the usual silliness of the bathrooms being located a lift’s ride away. Otherwise, the space is festooned with comfortable leather seating in various shades of brown and cream, hardwood flooring and sympathetic lighting at dinner. As expected from a restaurant within a luxury hotel, the service at Sette is slick, but not overwhelming or intimidating.
As for the menu, there’s a prominent focus on excellent seasonal ingredients at Sette. Pasta features heavily, supplemented by a number of meat and fish-focused dishes, antipasti and an entire section dedicated to crudi. Moreover, a tasting menu is also served, priced at £65 per person, while a prix fixe lunch deal offers three courses for £29 and includes the restaurant’s signature tomato and basil spaghetti dish: a particular highlight. Immediately after ordering, a selection of bread arrived – each example far better than it needed to be. Most exciting of which was the bread spiked with sobrasada, a glorious marriage of fat and carbohydrate.
From the crudi section of the menu, slivers of raw yellowtail tuna (£13) were unmistakably fresh, simply dressed with ginger-infused oil and lightly pickled petals of red onion. Sea bass (£12), on the other hand, had a stronger Mediterranean identity, joined by briny Taggiasca olives and a platoon of multi-coloured tomatoes. More seafood came with an octopus (£14) starter harbouring a well-charred tentacle accompanied by globe artichokes, ‘marble potato’ and an inspired vinaigrette made with charred spring onions. A key specimen of the exemplary comfort food the group has become so renowned for across the Atlantic, creamy polenta was served with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms (£10), folded with cream and an industrial helping of Parmesan: an opulent, gloriously insalubrious delight.
The restaurant’s most famous dish is perhaps the menu’s most unassuming – simply described as spaghetti with tomato and basil (£16). A vehicle for dramatic presentation, the glass cloche brought little to the dish other than slightly coagulating the tomato sauce, but didn’t affect the bright flavour profile. Here, Roma tomatoes are gently simmered, finished with basil and lavished with butter before being tossed with al dente spaghetti that’s made in-house: a showcase of quality ingredients treated with utmost respect, the cornerstone of modest Italian cooking.
Another well executed main featured a thick tranche of pan fried halibut (£29) lounging over a puree of white asparagus and a raft of charred asparagus spears lending favourable texture to the dish, as well as flavour, capped with a crown of finely chopped almonds, shallots and chives. To finish, espresso bundino (£10) featured a layer of coffee cream flecked with salted caramel and a generous scoop of hazelnut gelato. A decadent dessert ample for two to share before heading downstairs for that inevitable (completely necessary) post-dinner drink at Nolita Social.
Sette can be found at 4 Knightsbridge Green, London, SW1X 7QA.