Sale e Pepe, Knightsbridge restaurant review
Sale e Pepe restaurant in Belgravia: the beloved Italian trattoria’s careful revamp brings 80s nostalgia back to Knightsbridge
It’s been almost 50 years since Sale e Pepe opened on Pavilion Road, where it became one of swinging London’s favourite destinations. Sloane rangers, jet-setters, film stars, rockers and aristocrats gathered in the retro-chic spot, at a time when Italian food was all the rage.
But with London becoming a foodie hub in the ’00s, Sale e Pepe’s desirability among the famous started to wane, despite its retained charm and faithful Londoners travelling all the way to taste its linguine all’aragosta. And it is precisely that unique decadent style that Los Mochis’ owners, who recently acquired the restaurant, are hoping to revitalise.
It is my first time at Sale e Pepe. I am joined by my friend Barbara who used to go in the late 90s. She warns me of the possibility of waiters' tricks.
I immediately love the vibe of the restaurant. With its red marble and neon signage, Sale e Pepe’s subtle retro glamour has all the elements of a cool Instagram fixture. We are welcomed into a bar area then taken to the dining room. With its traditional white tablecloth, our table gives us a good view of the crowd, a combination of well-heeled locals and chic international visitors.
The waiters, most of them Italians, are friendly and welcoming. They bring us a menu that features a selection of classic Italian dishes, including: insalata di granchio, crab and avocado salad with tomato concasse, spring onions, chives, pimiento de espelette and lemon dressing; cacio e pepe, bucatini with pecorino cheese and black pepper sauce, and the eye-catching costoletta di vitello alla Milanese, bone-in pan-fried veal chop in breadcrumbs.
Barbara opts for the vitello tonnato and the linguine all’aragosta. I decide to order the insalata di granchio and the veal Milanese.
As expected, our dishes are perfectly executed and bring the right element of comfort. The veal chop is particularly scrumptious – I have gone for the gluten-free version – but it is far too big. Our waiter suggests I take it away in a doggy bag. ‘Eat it cold tomorrow for lunch,' he tells me. 'It will taste even better.’ The tiramisu comes in, perhaps not as ‘stupendo’ as I would like, though Barbara reckons it is just the right amount of creaminess.
And then, without seeing it coming, I am tricked by the waiter in true Italian tradition, a harmless trick that makes us all laugh heartily.
Heading home, I reflect that this iconic food spot is well worth a revival. I put the rest of the veal chop in my fridge. But when I look for it the following evening it is gone. My youngest son admits he had it for lunch, saying: ‘It’s the best chop I've ever eaten.’
The good old Sale e Pepe vibe is definitely alive!
Eleonore and Barbara were invited for dinner. The bill amounted to £200.
Sale e Pepe, 9-15 Pavilion Road, London SW1X 0HD
Monday – Saturday: 12pm–10:30pm
You can order food delivery or book a table here.