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Lucius (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Italian Crystal Palace

Time Out says

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Lucius is the kind of friendly neighbourhood Italian restaurant that everyone should – but sadly doesn’t – have around the corner. With two Italian chefs in the kitchen, the food majors in simplicity and quality ingredients.

Pizzas were a fabulous balance of crisp, light dough and generous toppings of the classic varieties, but with a twist – my grilled aubergine and courgette featured welcome drifts of freshly steamed spinach.

But it was a pasta dish that stood out: the texture of the gnocchi was as good as any we’ve tried outside of Italy. Pert on the tongue but squishy on impact – not the pappy mush we’re used to in the UK – and it was a perfect foil for its subtle blue cheese and spinach sauce.

Along with pizza or pasta, there are regular specials. A rib-eye steak with spaghetti was divine – though we’d have happily paid more to have a bigger slice of steak.

The fresh spaghetti (from a specialist supplier, like the gnocchi) was also notably good, coated in anchovy, garlic and tomato sauce.

For dessert, the tiramisu was a heavenly cloud of cocoa-dusted whipped egg and mascarpone topping, on a delicious vanilla sponge base that hadn’t been swamped in liquor in the British way (as the name suggests, it’s supposed to be a ‘pick me up’, not a ‘knock you out’).

Affogato – one ball each of high-quality vanilla and chocolate ice cream doused in hot espresso – was also spot on.

Lucius was opened late this summer by Mel Nugent, who formerly ran the premises here as a sibling to his still thriving Blue Mountain Cafés in East Dulwich and Sydenham.

Local friends tell me there are lots of great Italian restaurants in this immediate area, but those I’ve tried serve up the usual cheap pastiche of Italian food.

Lucius, in contrast, feels like a step in the right direction. But it still needs the courage to focus on purely Italian fare – why put halloumi or chorizo on an Italian antipasti platter?

More Italian wines on the short and budget-friendly wine list would also be a smart move, along with more atmospheric lighting in this otherwise friendly venue with its flashes of boudoir glam. There’s also a cosy lounge-bar area below with a tiny patio: perfect for intimate parties.

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Details

Address: 128 Gipsy Hill
London
SE19 1PL
Transport: Tube: Gipsy Hill rail
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