Thursday, 5 June 2014


The lovely thing about being on Twitter in a place like Peckham is that there is a huge foodie and other stuff Twitter community here, so as soon as a rumour starts it gets spread round like a flash and eventually someone who actually knows what is going on chimes in. And so it was with our new Italian restaurant Artusi on Bellenden Road. Waters were muddied for a while as apparently an Italian cafĂ© is opening up in what was Chaz the Hairdressers but  it soon became clear - Jack Beer, ex Clove Club  and Peckham Bazaar, our very own Balkan grill-fest (sadly closed at the moment whist it is being transformed) was opening an Italian restaurant called Artusi in our midst. There was no 'soft launch', no fanfare, they just opened with a picture of their menu on the chalkboard to whet our appetites posted on Twitter. And what a menu - three starters, two pastas, three mains, two puddings.

The restaurant is an old shop, and is now long and thin extended back into the store rooms with the open kitchen at the back. On arrival the wine list was proffered and I can recommend the house white, the Vermentino and the white vermouth - others can tell you about the natural wines on the list. My first visit was with my friend Tony, better known as award winning food blogger Theskintfoodie - we hadn't seen each other for a while and needed to catch up on new jobs and stuff.   My second visit was with another friend Heather Jordan, a local Chef and Masterchef quarter finalist and my third was with Mr Redding - at last!

The atmosphere is relaxed with very trendy but extremely efficient and friendly service. Slices of Peckham Rye sourdough from The Brick House Bakery arrive with a slab of butter. Dishes I and my companions have loved include excellent squid ink pasta filled with squid; grilled baby artichokes with the smoothest garlicky anchovy bagna cauda I have ever tasted, and, on another occasion, with the greenest tasting salsa verde I have ever enjoyed; melting octopus with wild garlic and asparagus; pork chop cooked in milk and lemon to delicious unctuousness; pappardelle with pancetta and fresh peas; pork belly with broad bean broth and glit head bream. Puddings are equally lovely - olive oil cake, proper tiramisu and ice creams including chocolate, mascarpone and salted honey.

Three courses each with a bottle of wine and a couple of vermouth comes to around £80 for two plus service, which refreshingly isn't included. Since Jay Rayner reviewed the restaurant booking is essential a bit in advance but do give it a go - thoroughly recommended.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


We don't eat out very often, mostly due to straightened financial circumstances and family responsibilities. However, my friend Amanda has been known to entice me out from time to time and, to celebrate my last day on a fundraising contract (I HATE fundraising), we went to Green Man and French Horn, a restaurant that we both remembered had fabulous reviews when it opened.  Its sister restaurants Braun, Terroirs and Soif  are nearby and also heavily influenced my local ToastED in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich.  All good stuff.

We started with a bottle of sparkling Vouvray which was slightly off dry and very lovely  and the perfect thing to drink as we caught up on the last couple of months and decided what we wanted to eat. This took rather  a long time as we were tempted with so many great things but in the end we decided to go for five of the small plates, one of which we shared - we are both very territorial about food.

Details were good - great bread and butter happily replenished without asking. Still or sparkling free 'tap' water. Service throughout was great. But the food...that was divine. Crispily fried fresh anchovies with aioli disappeared within minutes - beautifully fishy and rustled on their paper. Asparagus with fromage blanc, bitter leaves and walnuts was the kind of salad that only the French seem to carry off with the combination of bitter, creaminess, nuttiness and the glorious flavour of asparagus all highlighted by beautiful olive oil and salt. Snails with parsley root and hedgehog mushrooms were declared to be the most tender ever encountered (I didn't indulge, not a huge snail fan). Leek, crab, egg and horseradish was an absolute triumph. A brown crab sauce with horseradish provided a base for gently poached leeks, all topped off with grated egg and white crab meat - simple, beautifully seasoned and a very generous plateful. We shared the chopped raw beef with radish and hedgehog mushrooms - true beefy flavour accentuated by the vegetables and dressing. We shared a 500ml carafe of some rather gorgeous very light red wine but the name escapes me - the waiter recommended it so I am sure he will recommend it to you.

The bill came to £118 for five dishes, a bottle of sparkling wine, a carafe of red, water and limitless bread. For the standard of cooking and the excellence of ingredients I call that great value.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A lovely Italian Restaurant in Liverpool

I love Italian food. I am not a huge fan of pasta but the way Italians deal with meat, fish and seafood makes me smile - a gorgeous bit of protein, a sauce or dressing with vibrant flavours, and that's it. If you want potatoes or vegetables then order them separately. Great. So, when we ventured up to Liverpool, and fancied some fish, we googled 'fish restaurant' and one of the top results was San Carlo. So off we went. It is a splendid restaurant, with a gorgeous cocktail bar greeting you on arrival. We were a bit early for dinner so sat at the bar for cocktails and there we had nibbles of huge olives, socca and arancini to keep us occupied. We ordered sardines and seafood salad for starters - beautifully fresh, well cooked and plentiful....mains were five kinds of grilled fish and seafood and veal scallopine with a wild mushroom sauce. The side of sautĂ© potatoes were crisp and delicious. We were so impressed by the generosity of the servings and the quality of the ingredients and the service was warm and helpful. Our desired digestif wasn't available so we were recommended Amaro Montenegro - warm with violets it made Fernet Branca seem very harsh. This restaurant may not suit those looking for an ultra modern experience but for good honest but refined Italian food it was fabulous. £120 for two courses each, three cocktails, a bottle of wine and two digestifs. Thoroughly recommended.