Latest opening: Sale e Pepe

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Knightsbridge Italian restaurant Sale e Pepe has reopened

Related tags Sale e Pepe Markus Thesleff Los Mochis London Restaurant Italian cuisine

Now part of Thesleff Group, the stalwart Knightsbridge Italian restaurant is celebrating its 50th birthday with a comprehensive nip and tuck.

What:​ One of Knightsbridge’s best known Italian restaurants, Sale e Pepe has occupied the same site on Pavilion Road, just off Sloane Street and metres from Knightsbridge tube station for the past 50 years. Opened in 1974, the site was expanded in 1985 to introduce a bar area but little else changed over the next 30 or so years. The restaurant closed for a refurbishment and makeover at the start of the year and has just reopened having been reimagined in its traditional form but with a much needed touch of modernity.

Who:​ Toni Corricelli launched Sale e Pepe and ran the restaurant for over 45 years and now the baton has been passed to Markus Thesleff, owner of the Thesleff Group, which also runs the Los Mochis brand of Mexican restaurants in London. He quietly took over a few years ago and is now making his presence known.  

The food:​ Thesleff has been at pains to retain the traditional Italian trattoria element of Sale e Pepe, as is evidenced by its selection of Italian classic dishes. The menu is split into antipasti, crudo, insalata, pasta and risotto, secondi, and carne dishes with a handful of signature dishes and contori also on offer. There will be no surprises that options including vitello tonnato; calamari fritti; beef carpaccio; veal ragu tagliatelle; and pollo a la Milanese all feature among the capacious menu and very little tinkering has been done with them, with many having that reassuring 80s and 90s feel that a bountiful use of rocket, sun blushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar brings. Where Thesleff has rung the changes, however, is with some of the other dishes, with the introduction of sharing primi and secondi, including Sale e Pepe classics such as the vitello Milanese, and linguine all’aragosta having been reimagined into larger portions to be taken by the whole table. Pricing is in keeping with the postcode, with antipasti dishes hovering around the £20 mark, pasta and risotto dishes around £30, and carne and pesce options from £35 to £85. The signature dishes designed for sharing offer some of the best value for money – a bone-in pan-fried veal chop is £52 and a generous portion of linguine vongole is £45.

Image: Justin DeSouza

To drink:​ The wine list encompasses some of Italy’s most famous winemaking regions, with wines from Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany, and Sicily all featuring. The by-the-glass selection for both whites and reds is divided into two – four more standard options from £9 to £18 and then a premium selection, the highlights of which are a Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay/Grechetto 2021 from Umbria at £45 a glass and a Solaia Antinori 2011 from Tuscany at £75. Those wanting to let loose on the bottle selection won’t have a problem with splashing the cash as there are only a handful of bottles priced under £60 and many going into triple figures – although one suspects the clientele wouldn’t have it any other way.

The vibe:​ In an interview pre relaunch ​Thesleff described Sale e Pepe as ‘a total relic’ that needed a bit of love to bring it back into shape. This task he charged to luxury interior design studio Hamilford Design, which has worked to retain much of the restaurant’s original sophistication but give it a cleaner, more refined look. Simplicity has been the key here, with a muted brown and white colour palette creating a sense of timelessness that combines opulent and more rustic elements. Cover numbers have been reduced from 70 to 72 but the tables are still close enough together to create the much-needed buzz. Immaculately dressed staff add to the overall ‘Knightsbridge neighbourhood’ feel of the place, although the lighting was unnecessarily bright on our visit.

And another thing:​ Sale e Pepe welcomed guests such as Rod Stewart, Sir Roger Moore, Priscilla Presley and Ringo Starr through its doors during the Corricelli era. Whether the modern day equivalents of Ed Sheeran, Daniel Craig, and Harry Judd pay a visit in its new guise remains to be seen.

9-15 Pavilion Rd, London, SW1X 0HD

Related topics Restaurant Openings Fine Dining

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