If you’ve put anything resembling pasta in your mouth in London over the past few years, you’re likely familiar with the folk behind Jacuzzi. The never-knowingly-discreet Big Mamma Group has already bestowed the dramatic – and occasionally verging-on-the-ludicrous – likes of Gloria, Ave Mario and Circolo Popolare on the city’s Italian-cuisine-noshing masses, and now comes its fourth shot at livin’ La Dolce Vita.
High Street Kensington’s ornate Jacuzzi impressively straddles the line between high camp and high class. Like being invited into Sophia Loren’s boudoir, it’s at once seductive, sort of silly and kind of overwhelming; plants – in fact, trees – are everywhere, colourful glassware hangs from the ceiling, lavish majolica-style ceramics adorn the tables and – on the very top floor of this labyrinthine four-storey building – there are massive knickers in frames and toilets tiled with hundreds of tiny, artfully painted dicks (which, for our money is far more of a draw than the much-talked about mirror-ball covered ‘disco loo’ in the basement).
Like being invited into Sophia Loren’s boudoir, it’s at once seductive, sort of silly and kind of overwhelming.
But we already know that Big Mamma can do interior design – what of the food, I hear you ask? We steered clear of the staples and showstoppers – the table next to us ordered the mega massive offering of spaghetti served in a pecorino wheel, which filled us up just looking at it – and instead went for something a touch more subtle. This, it turns out, Jacuzzi is actually more than capable of. Home-made focaccia was warm, salty and beautifully bouncy, ideal for dipping into our decent dollop of burrata dotted with black truffle and for slathering with a zingy Sicilian gambero rosso di mazara ceviche.
Sure, portion control still seems to be a sticking point. Not that they’re stingy, far from it: a fabulous puttanesca con tonno crudo – a hearty spaghetti dish with creamy datterini tomato sauce, olives, capers, tuna and cold stracciatella – came in a bowl only slightly smaller than our table. Saltimbocca alla romana was more manageable: sweet, marsala-sauce-drizzled slices of veal wrapped in prosciutto and sage. I finally felt like Anita Ekberg while eating it, ready to plunge myself into the Trevi Fountain. With no fountain to hand, which seems like an oversight considering the excesses of draped foliage and ornate light-up staircase, I plumped instead for a pistachio profiterole. It was packed with hazelnut cream and gelato and simply swimming in chocolate sauce – which might have been my fault for point-blank refusing to say ‘when’ as the waiter poured it into the bowl.
The mood in the room was pretty much bang on – couples clinking glasses of pinot nero and jolly groups of pals face-planting into grande platters of lobster risotto – but the music occasionally threatened to upset the chic atmosphere. Dreamy 1960s Italian lady crooner pop worked a treat, but aggro Euro bangers less so. Still, that’s Jacuzzi for you: your senses are there to be battered and there’s not much you can do but go along for the ride.
The vibe Powerful decadence, from the mighty flavours to the bathroom’s elegant penis tiles.
The food Italian classics served on extremely big plates and made using proudly high-end ingredients.
The drink House wine is a steal at £29 a bottle, but don’t miss the intensely drinkable cocktails, including a Negroni spiked with balsamic vinegar.
Time Out tip The pastas are showstoppers for sure, but hit up the meat dishes for something a little more manageable.