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Michael Hepworth takes on the trendy crowd at TECA
- the latest sharp modern Italian which opened early in July

Judging from the number of new Italian restaurants that have opened recently, new-style Italian or "Mod-Med" cuisine seems still to be the in thing. A word about names: TECA means a box in which you keep a collection of prized objects; here it refers to an oenoteca, a collection of wines. The focus of this sharp edged dining room is a glass walled temperature controlled wine store with the bottles in their bins visible for all to see and admire. And there's a teca within a teca so to speak, as I noticed a humidor full of rare Cuban cigars. Then there's the proprietor, Marco Bacchetta who in spite of his grandpapa's Italian name is in fact a Swiss-German banker. He's young, urbane, a party animal I suspect, but he's lived in London for three years and he wanted to put something back into the community.

Everything at TECA has been put together with the utmost seriousness and attention to detail. Two young 26 year-old chefs, Marco Torn and William Lamberti run the show, and they are backed up by a lively looking brigade in a kitchen that is small but extremely functional. Both of them worked as sous chefs at the Halkin under Stefano Cavallini, with Torn also training with Gualtieri Marchesi in Italy. Add two sharp managers up front and some very bright and bushy tailed staff in Vivienne Westwood gear and there's style for you. For the diners there's no dress code here, just the usual lively youngish crowd having a good time and enjoying some really outstanding food. I can say this with some confidence because none other than Fay Maschler of the Standard has already visited and awarded it a star. Hell, I know of some restaurants that have been waiting five years for the great one to visit.

At first glance the brief menu looks to be a bit of a let down with limited choice and sometwhat dull descriptions, especially for those of us fortunate enough to eat out regularly at venues where the menu usually reads like a mini novel. After mulling over the starters I was prompted by the waitress in the direction of gnocchi in the shape of ravioloi stiffed with pesto, melted hutter and pinekernels. This was absolutely brilliant, the best pasta I've had for ages. The melted butter sauce worked well with the pasta which was rather more substantial than it looked.

A salad of scallops with shellfish vinaigrette starred scallops of a generous size that were grilled to perfection. The fishy flavoured dressing linked the scallops to the salad to make the perfect combination. By way of contrast, a Carpaccio of sea bass was served with Japanese elegance on baby spinach leaves dressed with a little caviar, whilst a plate of quail was cleverly presented with very green broad beans and pecorino.

A main course billed as "Grilled hreast of chicken with vegetables" may sound pretty uninspiring, but boy, was I surprised! It was divided in two parts, incredibly succulent and the vegetables consisted of grilled courgettes, eggplant, grilled potatoes all in a delicious juice. A fillet of John Dory with courgettes and tomato confit was also superb - beautifully grilled with the skin on - like every other dish the presentation and taste were both exquisite. There was a roast saddle of rabbit that was delicate, and if you wrap the principal ingredient in pancetta it seems you can hardly go wrong.

Luckily we still had some room left for dessert and again we allowed ourselves to be guided by the very helpful waiting staff - this time in the direction of the house speciality, a Tarte tatin for two. Although not in the least Italian, this well executed dish with its delicious caramelized apples is by itself worth coming back for. And a millefoglie layered with what I presumed was marscapone and raspberries confirmed our view that the puddings will be also a delight at TECA.

As you would expect, the wines we were offered were top class: a delicious aromatic, oily Pinot Bianco 1997 from Franz Haas in NE Italy and a butter-and-lemon 1996 Tuscan Chardonnay Isole e Olena of real breeding. These were followed by a dark hued, smoky flavoured 1997 Morellino di Scansano, Le Pupille, also from Tuscany.

For about £15.00 a head one ought to be able to get rather a nice lunch at TECA, which I predict will be a very poplar midday destination. A three course dinner will cost around £30.00 without drinks. Wines start at £12 a bottle, and there a scores of wines to choose from for under a score of pounds, but you can order some really top quality Italian wines here with confidence.

TECA, 54 Brooks Mews, Mayfair W1Y 2NY
Tel 020 7495 4774
Open daily from noon till midnight

Nearest tube station Bond Street - All major credit cards accepted
12.5% optional gratuity added to all bills
Wheelchair access


UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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