|Ricotta & braised radicchio|
at Artusi Peckham
It's easy to tell when an area of London is heating up property-wise. The nearest parade of shops start to get a lick of paint and an air of fresh-thinking. SE15 is a case in point where the traders on Peckham's Bellenden Road now include ex-Ginger Pig butcher Charlie Shaw with his own Flock & Herd butchery; popular Thai street-food restaurant The Begging Bowl; Melange chocolate shop and cafe; and the very special grocer General Store where the shelves groan with foodstuffs from many London producers. Here too is a little gem of a restaurant, Artusi at No. 161.
Taking its name from *Pellegrino Artusi, this determinedly Italian restaurant has Jack Beer as Owner and Chef (ex-Clove Club and Peckham Bazaar). It's a relaxing kind of place with a short, understated menu and charming staff. Simply furnished, the tables for two can be pushed together the length of the banquette seating to accommodate groups and a Long Table in the back, right by the kitchen action, can be booked for parties (seats 18).
The Evening menu may offer a starter of Seared Beef Heart with peppers or Burrata with braised radicchio. Mains might include Venison Haunch with root vegetables or Cod with broccoli. Expect a choice of a couple of desserts, maybe Chocolate Mousse, Tiramisu or Olive Oil Cake. At Sunday lunch there's a set 3-course menu for £20. Weekday lunches are even more pared-down. The small, wholly Italian, wine list is reasonably priced starting at £20 a bottle/£4 a glass going up to a Barolo at £62.
|Linguine with Duck ragout|
at Artusi Peckham
This is simple Italian food of the kind that is so often done badly. There are no hiding places, no tricksy flourishes or sauces to hide a multitude of sins. I've had several lunches at Artusi. Each one has been exemplary. They have included a dish of radicchio - two varieties, one intensely bitter and one mildly so - charred and paired with a whipped ricotta and dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Another time, pillowy ricotta served with braised radicchio and tomatoes. Both dishes were juicy and big on flavour. Squid with Potatoes was no looker but was a pleasing plateful of tender squid and waxy potatoes brought together by a fish stock-based emulsion. The pasta dishes are served in two portion sizes at £6.50 and £10.50. Spaghetti Puttanesca was punchy perfection, Linguine with Duck Ragout was flavoursome and well balanced. A deeply comforting bowl of Beef and Pork Meatballs in a herby tomato sauce was simply served with parmesan. A light as air Olive Oil Cake came with baked thyme-infused pear and caramel sauce. Scoops of Ice Cream a - one Coffee and one Salted Honey - were served exactly as you hope, just-melting softness in a cold bowl. It takes confidence to serve up ice cream quite so plainly but here it's not misplaced.
Expect to pay about £50 for two at lunch.
|Coffee ice cream and Salted Honey ice cream|
at Artusi Peckham
There's a modesty about Artusi. It's the word that came to mind when on one visit a party of 5 arrived for a wedding celebration straight from the ceremony. In a world where thousands of pounds are spent on the 'big day', this was a model of restraint and a delight to observe. I applaud the Happy Couple's choices for their big day, and for the sweet way Artusi welcomed them. Let's have more modesty, I say.
161 Bellenden Road
London SE15 4DH
Tel: 020 3302 8200
*Pellegrino Artusi made his fortune as a silk merchant which funded his twin passions of literature and food. In 1891 he self-published La Scienza in cucina e l'Arte de mangiar bene (The Science of Cookery and The Art of Eating Well). He was the first to include recipes from all regions of Italy in a single cookbook and is credited with helping to establish a national Italian identity following unification. By the time of his death in 1911, sales of the book exceeded 200,000 copies.