161 Bellenden Rd, SE15 4DH
Nearest tube: Peckham Rye
020 3302 8200
Artusi received a glowing write-up from Peckham resident Jay Rayner a few months ago, but seems to have been off the radar of most London bloggers ever since (North London bias perhaps?). I decided to head along to offer an impartial opinion and to sniff out any potential home-bias from Jay.
Artusi is nestled in the recently gentrified Bellenden village, a place where hip new restaurants and artisan butchers sit shoulder to shoulder with greasy kebab shops and Caribbean fruit and veg shops. It’s interior is stripped back using a coolly understated palette of white, grey, slate and charcoal. Plain wood tables are crammed into the relatively small dining area which is topped by an open kitchen. The menu is short, seasonal and keenly priced, with three starters (£5), two pasta dishes (£6 or £10.5 for a larger portion) and three mains (£13) on offer.
We opened with mortadella – a pork cold-cut from Bologna, laced with garlic and pistachio nuts. The portion was very generous: the fatty, flavoursome, meat had a slight garlic aftertaste – for me, it was very enjoyable but I imagine that some would find it’s richness a bit heavy going. Our other starter was seared ox heart with salsa verde – the meat was served rare but had been properly rested so it almost melted in the mouth. The salsa verde was zingy, lifting the strong flavour of the ox heart and lending clean citrus undertones.
For our pasta main we chose pappardelle with artichoke. The pasta had certainly been made in-house using good quality eggs, giving it a fantastic yellow colour; it was rolled very thinly and cooked so it retained a bit of bite. The artichokes were (I think) steamed and then soused in a butter sauce. This dish was a reminder of the amazing pasta dishes that I have eaten on holiday in Italy – it was by far the best pasta dish I have eaten in the UK.
We followed the pasta with old spot pork, beans and artichoke. The pork had been slow cooked and was so soft it could have been eaten with a spoon. It had been finished in a little olive oil, with cream and a hint of parsley. Texture was added by the earthy, nutty beans and freshness by the artichoke. An incredibly simple, but beautifully executed dish.
Verdict: humble, great value food in a relaxed, yet stylish setting 9/10