With the nights becoming increasingly darker and colder, I’d very much welcome an evening in Sicily or the Amalfi coast – and that is just what restaurant, Azzurra, hopes to replicate. The new elegant eatery is inspired by restaurateur David Yeo’s travel around Sicily and the Amalfi coast. Italian seafood, with a ‘boat to table’ philosophy, is at the forefront.
Azzurra joins fellow ventures from the Aqua group, including Hutong, Aqua Nueva, and Aqua Shard, in creating a real treat of a dining experience for its guests. The restaurant’s location in Chelsea puts it side by side with the well-heeled neighbours of nearby Sloane Square, so as soon as I arrived, I had high expectations – and I was not disappointed. Read on for my review of Azzurra.
The Azzurra dining experience
Azzurra’s interiors are impressive. As I opened the door – adorned with a mermaid handle, no less – the first thing I noticed was the striking, glittering gold, 16-metre bar, which runs the length of the restaurant. Along it, there is what I would call a bar bar (aka serving drinks), as well as a raw bar filled with a lavish spread of fresh seafood, and a pizza counter, serving thin crust delights. Seats lined these bars for those waiting for their table.
As previously mentioned, Azzurra has a ‘boat to table’ philosophy; although this is Italian cuisine, the chefs champion the best of British seafood sourced sustainably from the British Isles. This theme isn’t just limited to the food, as netting from English fishing boats hangs from the high ceilings – a nod to British seafood – and the seating is a lovely sea blue. There are also decorative crustaceans and fish, which were hand-carved on the Amalfi Coast, adorning the walls, plus the private dining space at the back of the restaurant is modelled on the style of old fishing boats.
The food was exceptional; some of the best I’ve had in a while. What struck me most was the vibrancy of the dishes and drinks; I find the best meals always have variation in texture and flavour combinations, which Azzurra had, and they really took it to the next level. My favourite dish of the evening was the risotto gamberi e zucchine, a bright green risotto, topped with bright pink Sicilian prawns, and sprinkled with anchovy speckles. Every bite burst with flavour.
A close second was the scallop crudo, served with compressed watermelon and little olive oil pearls. This was a flavour combination I’d never before considered, and I loved how the sweetness of the watermelon transformed the flavour of the scallop. In addition, olive oil is an everyday staple for me, yet I was utterly bewitched by the little pearls. The same goes for the sardines in the fritto misto; a cupboard staple at home, here served with incredible flourish, on a bed of coated courgette.
Whether you’re a fruit or chocolate dessert person, Azzurra caters for both – and for the purpose of this review, I tried both too. I particularly loved the chocolate and hazelnut croccante, which was reminiscent of an elevated choc ice, while the limone was aesthetically very cool.
Now, being an Italian restaurant, the wine list was impressive, but why break the habit of a lifetime? I went for one of the bar’s signature cocktails instead. The Spritzello tasted like a holiday in my mouth; it was refreshing, sweet but not overly so, and went down very well. The Italian riff on a margarita was a surprising azure colour, and was equally enjoyable. If spirits are your thing, the drink menu boasts a lengthy list of options, including an absolute shit ton of gin.
To conclude this review, a meal at Azzurra is rather impressive; whether you come morning, noon or night. While I visited for dinner, the restaurant is open for weekend brunch, lunch, and afternoons of Italian pastries and gelato too. There are floor-to-ceiling windows; had I visited earlier in the day, I just knew the natural light would stream in. I was advised that, come summer, there will be terrace tables, adorned in various sea-blue hues, that line the front of the restaurant for those who wish to dine alfresco.