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 café 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.