We check out Azzurra in Chelsea, a fab spot for an Italian-inspired feast
The Aqua Restaurant Group knows how to do a glamorous destination restaurant, with David Yeo’s global empire including the likes of Aqua Shard and Hutong – impressive stuff for a former lawyer who came to the hospitality business in 2000, having been encouraged by friends who were impressed by his at-home entertaining.
Azzurra, which opened in autumn last year, is his latest outpost, with Yeo drawn to the big site in Sloane Street for his take on high-end Italian, with dishes inspired by the food of Sicily and the Amalfi Coast.
The coastal theme runs throughout but this is no kitsch spot by any means. Nautical but nice. It is one of those restaurants where you really do have a wow moment when you walk in. There are light sculptures that look like jellyfish, nets hang off the ceiling and a vast marble seafood bar runs along the entirety of the restaurant. The lights dim every so often so you get to appreciate a light projection panning across the walls to evoke the ripple of the sea.
The menu is overseen by executive chef Andrea Mura and features British fish and seafood, where possible, all served with that wonderful lightness of touch you get in Italy.
It’s a big space but manages not to feel cavernous. And it’s a slick operation – the waiting staff are wired up with ear pieces – it results in fabulous service but all looks a little bit FBI.
We started with some of the ‘crudo’ dishes – stunningly presented red mullet set on a bagnetto verde sauce. We also tried some Yellowtail with Sicilian blood orange, which was among the most wonderful raw fish dishes I have had. We also tagged on some fritto misto to start, with calamari, prawn, red mullet, and sardines served with a roasted garlic mayo. This is such a staple of Italian menus but here it was elevated. Each element was delicious, including the thin ribbons of deep-fried courgette served alongside the fish.
For mains, we went for a pasta dish with red octopus – it was comfortingly tasty rather than the big wow we expected given the £36 price tag. A roast seabream (the catch of the day) was far more impressive. I wouldn’t normally choose a roast fillet but this was a big piece – it was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and served simply with salsa verde and Sicilian caponata. Divine.
On to dessert: the waiter recommended the tiramisu which arrives deconstructed to be assembled at the table with the waiter pouring the coffee mix over the sponge fingers and lathering on the ricotta cream. It’s showtime and several diners filmed the spectacle as they were served it. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t show over substance and was genuinely delicious. But the real highlight was the Limone – whose description doesn’t do it justice: Amalfi lemon, ricotta, white chocolate. What actually arrives looks like a whole lemon (white chocolate) then you cut in to delicious lemony sponge and the ricotta. It is just sublime – we declared it the best dessert we’d had in a long time.
Azzurra is the type of place I’ll return to. It’s fun, glamorous enough for a celebratory night out, and the menu is just my kind of food. It’s charming, too. A couple at a nearby table dining on pizza and beers were as well looked after as the group on the other side of us having a big splash-out dinner.
Prices: crudo from £14, mains from £31, pizza from £18
127 – 128 Sloane Street, London