This restaurant opened in June 2017, with Stefano Stecca in charge of the kitchen. Originally from Rimini, Mr Stecca moved to London in 1999 worked at places such as Zafferano (as sous chef) and then Brunello and Toto’s before moving here. Fish is supplied from Cornwall daily. The focaccia and the white bread were made in the kitchen and were pleasant rather than remarkable (12/20), but the bought-in flat bread from Sardinia tasted stale – the version that you can buy in a packet from Marks and Spence was significantly better than this. Burratta was served on a base of avocado, which was ripe and well-seasoned. The tomatoes with it, which were from Sicily, had unusually good flavour, and the burrata itself was fine (14/20).
Duck ragu with papardelle had pasta with excellent texture, the duck cooked all right but the ragu lacking the real depth of flavour that the best versions have (13/20). It was topped with “black truffles”, which were summer truffles from Abruzzo. Summer black truffles (Tuber Aestivum Vitt) look pretty but have a tiny fraction of the aroma of real black truffles (Tuber Melanosporum Vitt), which come into season in Europe around December – February. Truffle labelling is highly confusing, as there are, apart from the highly prized white truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico), other varieties too: autumn black truffle (Tuber Uncinatum Chatin), winter black truffle (Tuber Brumale Vitt, which is about half the price of the Tuber Melanosporum Vitt) and smooth black truffle (Tuber Macrosporum Vitt). These change hands at dramatically different prices, and restaurants all too often just put “truffle” on the menu since many unsuspecting people will assume the costliest version or don't realise the difference in the varieties.
An intermediate course of ravioli of ricotta with sage was the dish of the night, with the pasta delicate and the balance of the cheese and sage spot on (15/20). Risotto was topped with summer truffles from Abruzzo, the Acquarello rice high quality but cooked for not quite long enough, being just a bit too al dente for my taste (just about 13/20). Tagliolini with lobster was generous in size, the pasta itself excellent and the shellfish tender (14/20).
We were then brought nibble-sized portions of two desserts, a chocolate cake with walnuts, which was very good, and mascarpone cream with raspberries, which was very pleasant (14/20). Coffee was a brand called Caffe Guglielmo from Calabria, which was a tad on the harsh side of smooth but certainly drinkable, and better than some Italian brands.
Service was well-meaning, our waiter friendly though entirely ineffective at topping up our wine, despite a quiet dining room. The bill came to £91 a head, albeit with some very nice wine and pre-dinner drinks. If you ordered three courses and shared a modest bottle, then a typical cost per head might be around £70. Overall I enjoyed Stecca, whose kitchen can clearly cook capably and which uses quite good ingredients.