This low-key place is minimal in look and feel and unassuming in location, but excellent service, drinks and food place it firmly on the Peckham map.
When Italian food enthusiast Pellegrino Artusi published his book ‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well’ in 1891, it marked a turning point in Italian cuisine. Previous Italian cookbooks had genuflected to France, but once word got round about this innovative compendium of home-style Italian recipes (which took a while), copies started moving faster than a Ducati through an amber light. Every nonna had to own a copy, and Italian bookshops still stock it today. But I wonder what the grandfather of Italian cooking would make of this namesake?
This Peckham restaurant is so cutting-edge, so minimal, that there’s not even a name above the door. In looks it’s a long way from the rustic eateries of Artusi’s region (Emilia Romagna), but the quality of the food here does Artusi’s name justice.
Chef Jack Beer’s menu – only to be found on a chalkboard by the entrance – is confidently simple. There’s just a handful of well-priced seasonal dishes on the list including starters, pastas, larger meat and fish plates and a couple of puds. They don’t do side dishes. Starters ranged from safe options such as ricotta and tomato salad, or prosciutto and mortadella, to more adventurous – seared ox heart with olives, pig’s head with salsa verde. On ordering the latter, we were warned that it was very fatty. But our crisp slice of head served with a surprisingly smooth and creamy salsa verde was also rich, earthy and delicious.
Precision cooking was evident in a main of just-cooked whole lemon sole with roasted garlic and monk’s beard (the samphire-like estuarine stems called agretti in Italian), while biting into a piece of ravioli stuffed with silky smooth pea purée was a sweetly sensual experience. Then came dessert: the lightest olive oil cake we’ve encountered, fragrant with orange zest and served with salted honey ice cream. Even a soft scoop of strawberry ice cream was supreme.
Artusi has further turned up the heat on Peckham’s already thriving Bellenden Road culinary scene, but it’s also an unpretentiously low-key place with charming and knowledgeable staff, interesting drinks and excellent food. If Signore Artusi were still around, he might just like it as much as we do.