'Pasta is a definite strong point'


Open Sunday to Wednesday midday–10pm, Thursday to Saturday midday–10:30pm

The blurb

‘Stecca is a beautiful contemporary Italian restaurant serving stunning regional & seasonal cuisine in the heart of little Chelsea. Award-winning Italian chef patron Stefano Stecca has created this stylish & friendly local Italian restaurant serving irresistible regional Italian dishes with a distinctive light & contemporary touch.
Using only the freshest seasonal & regional Italian ingredients, the menu is uniquely inviting and delicious, with dishes including fish Crudi (raw), freshly made pasta and risotto alongside delicately prepared fish and heartier meat dishes. Something for every day and something for every special occasion. As the Italians say… food is how we express our love.

‘At Stecca, chef patron Stefano expresses his lifelong passion for Italy’s stunning regional & seasonal ingredients, combining them with subtle international influences to bring guests irresistibly delicious contemporary Italian dishes.

‘His passion for food was originally ignited growing up in his home town of Rimini in Emilia Romagna, Italy, with its rich culinary heritage of pasta and fish. For the last two decades he has honed his skills in London’s Michelin starred restaurants and luxury hotels including Zafferano, Rosmarino (scooping Time Out’s best local restaurant award), Brunello at The Baglioni hotel and TOTO’s in Knightsbridge.’

The style

Reassuringly clean and contemporary, Stecca nestles comfortably in a row of chichi antique shops and wine bars in the heart of residential Chelsea, its bright blue and white signage promising all manner of enjoyment within. On a grim Monday in November, the starkly lit interior is almost too clean and contemporary, not really hitting the hygge button—sorry for glib journalese, but you don’t have to be Danish to make things comfortable when it’s brass monkeys outside.

Come summer, though, I imagine the long, narrow room, double-aspect floor-to-ceiling windows, tables on the pavement and ‘secret garden’ at the back (at such a premium in this area) will come into their own and prove extremely popular.

The crowd

On said grim Monday in winter, the place was, perhaps unsurprisingly, empty when we arrived at 7pm, though it started to fill up as the night wore on, with a stylish, mainly Italian, partly local crowd. It seems that chef Stefano has a loyal following from his previous stints in high end, top notch and critically acclaimed central London restaurants (see The blurb, above).

The food

An amuse bouche of raw tuna with air-dried artichoke set the scene for what we hoped was to be an exceptional meal, the sweet, fresh fish a great vehicle for its companion’s concentration of flavour. ‘Can I call it essential artichokiness?’ I asked Andy. ‘I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,’ he responded. His sea bass carpaccio (£12), from the I Crudi di Pesce menu, was translucent and beautifully trimmed—nary a sinew in sight nor mouth—enlivened with a simple dusting of lemon zest, black pepper and fruity green olive oil. So far, so exemplary.

But then came my beef tartare with black truffle (£12). It jumped out at me! Made me think mmmm umami, this might just warm the cockles in such a strangely unseasonal ice-box of a room. Sadly it was not to be. The veritable mountain of meat was neither diced nor sliced: just too thick and chewy to be enjoyable, to the extent that the black truffles were lost. A real shame.

Happily, the kitchen redeemed itself with the primi: pasta is a definite strong point. Andy’s rabbit ragu with capers and tomatoes (£15) was fabulous, the sweet acidity of the veg cutting through the bunny’s slightly gamey richness. My one large raviolo stuffed with ricotta, wild mushrooms and black truffles (£16) (what can I say? The season is short, it was cold and I’m greedy), was plate-wipingly good, the fungi at long last making their presence felt though silky, paper-thin pasta.

A drawback, by the secondi, was that we were both starting to feel extremely full. And while this is, I grant you, a first world problem, it does seem a shame to stuff punters to the gills, to the extent that half the food ends up in the bin. We asked for a doggy bag, but you know what happens to doggy bags eventually.

My grilled Dover sole with French beans was simple and sublime: four tranches of expertly filleted fish (done with enjoyably showy-offy dexterity at the table) (£26), a pile of slender, perfectly cooked beans, neither soft nor squeaky, a couple of lemon quarters. Faultless, but… four fillets of fish? For one person? After a mound of chewy beef and some very yummy pasta? OK, maybe they don’t think that many diners will go for the full sprawling Italian menu, and filleting a big fish at the table has obvious theatrical appeal, but it might make sense to offer it as a sharing option if part of an enormous spread. It feels really niggardly to be criticising generous portions, but food waste is just so awful, and that one fish would have served at least four, anywhere I’ve been in Italy.

Anyway, off my soapbox—we probably ordered foolishly. Andy’s fillet of beef with spinach and mushroom sauce (£26) (still on the large side, but slightly more normally proportioned) was, again, bloody good. And then came the dolci, Crema Mascarpone (£6.50)—basically Tiramisu without the boring coffee bits, sooo yummy—and Sicilian canoli, filled with ricotta and pistachios (£6.50)—mmmm. So unfeasibly delicious, but even Andy, who still has the appetite of a teenage boy on a growth spurt, was hard pushed to finish his.

The drink

Can’t remember. They were very generous with it, too.

I jest. Chosen, from an extensive list: a lovely crisp Ternaler Classico, Terlano, Alto Adige (£52), then Andy, as is his wont, had a glass of full-bodied red to go with his beef—Primitivo di Manduria, Il Rosso dei Vespa, Puglia ’15 (£11). A glass each of sublimely syrupy pudding wine, followed by espressos accompanied by some kind of herby digestif sent us waddling out into the cold November night feeling that we had been extremely well fed and watered.

STECCA, 4 Hollywood Rd, Chelsea, London SW10 9HY; 020 7460 2322; stecca.co.uk; booking@stecca.co.uk

If you would like to stay up to date with our restaurant reviews, subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.

Restaurants |