Peckham’s food and restaurant scene is positively booming, yet when Victoria Purcell visited Artusi she discovered one restaurant that stands out from the crowd
It was Jay Rayner’s review in The Observer that alerted me to the presence of Artusi, for it’s been too long since I set foot on Bellenden Road, Peckham’s fastest-evolving street.
Stalwarts of ‘boutique strip’ like The Melange chocolate shop and Anderson & Co café are now cosied up alongside newbies like Bias on Bellenden and the artisan butchers Flock & Herd.
Just three sentences into Jay’s review and he drops the words ‘salted anchovies’ – ‘If salted anchovies are involved it’s generally a good thing’, he says. Heck yeah. And what happened to feature on Artusi’s ever- changing menu when I visited? Spaghetti with anchovies and pecorino. Sold.
The menu is refreshingly spartan with just a few dishes – whatever’s good that day at Moxon’s fishmongers in East Dulwich, Flock & Herd butchers next door or Smithfield Market – chalked up on the board in as few words as possible.
My friend and I arrived around 7.30pm on a Tuesday evening to a packed restaurant. The only seats available was a high bench overlooking the open kitchen, which we happily hopped onto, feeling like guests of the chefs (there are just two of them, feverishly prepping orders yet still managing to field my questions).
Swiftly ordering a carafe of the house red (the wines are all Italian, with some fine-sounding specimens from Puglia and Tuscany), we craned our necks to see the menu board.
The spaghetti with anchovies was probably the best pasta dish I’ve ever had. The pasta is handmade on the premises, the serving was huge and the flavours were super punchy
To start we had the tomato with salsa verde – so simple, yet so bold, that salsa verde delivering a wonderful whack of garlic – and raw sea trout, finely sliced, salted and drizzled with a very good extra virgin olive oil.
Then it was on to the aforementioned spaghetti with anchovies, tossed in a garlic and butter sauce with herbs – probably the best pasta dish I’ve ever had. The pasta is handmade on the premises, the serving was huge and the flavours were super punchy.
My friend ordered the leg of lamb with runner beans and was equally impressed – the quality of the lamb shining through its simple preparation and butter-tossed beans. It was all we’re-still-raving-about-it delicious.
Artusi, by the way, is named for the grandfather of Italian cooking, Pellegrino Artusi (who published Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well in 1891), and this place sure does him justice.
Two courses for two, £35 (excluding wine and service)
Excellent contemporary Italian food with no fuss
What to eat…
The menu changes all the time, but the spaghetti with anchovies was exceptional
What to know…
A few tables are available to book, otherwise arrive early
161 Bellenden Road, Peckham SE15 4DH; 020 3302 8200; artusi.co.uk