Having already been to Artusi’s sister restaurant (Marcella in Deptford), I had been keen to try out the original sibling. It’s been a staple feature in TimeOut’s 100 Best Restaurants in London list for the past few years (currently at number 50) and is adored by trendy Peckham dwelling millenials and families alike. But does it live up to the hype?
We visited on a Sunday afternoon when they offer a set menu of three courses for £20 (every other day of the week it’s a changing menu where each item has its own price). As we were 2 people, we naturally ordered one of everything. (Note – If you are veggie or have allergies it would be worth getting in touch first to check out the options).
Like Marcella, the menu is written on a chalkboard (people seem to like this and think it’s trendy).
First, let’s talk about the crispy pig head starter. Unsurprisingly, the crispy element was the fact it was in croquette form. They were pretty good. I’ve had a pig head croquette before and liked it. The meat is very juicy and fatty so you wouldn’t want to eat a lot of it. In small doses though it’s very tasty. Considering I wasn’t too sure what it was, I thought the mostarda was a triumph. The subtle nose tingling of mustard combined with what I’d describe as a sweet jam. Very nice indeed.
The second starter was “Homemade ricotta, minestra nera, gremolata and almonds”. It seems the guys at Artusi and Marcella like making their own ricotta. That’s good as they make awesome ricotta. I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure I’d go rushing out to eat any more minestra nera. It’s tough, chewy and close to impossible to cut with a knife and fork. That aside, this was a tasty dish with bursts of lemon and almond to complement the creaminess of the cheese and crunch of the almonds.
Unfortunately, my visit to both Artusi and Marcella hasn’t resulted in my dream pasta dish being on the menu. What’s my dream pasta dish? Any kind of pasta with a rich tomatoey sauce, accompanied by some strong tasting meat (sausage or guanciale is pretty ideal) and some sort of cheese.
Once again, the new found fascination of using anchovies (once one of my food nemeses) in pasta dishes was something I’d have to contend with. To be fair the “Cassarecce with anchovy and capers” was pretty good. Only as something to sample though. There’s no way I’d want to eat a whole bowl of this to myself. It’s an extremely one dimensionally flavoured dish – it tasted of salty fish.
Like Marcella though, the pasta itself was absolutely perfect – beautifully fresh and cooked exquisitely.
Next up was the very rustic “Sicilian sausage with polenta, pickled peppers, onions and cavolo nero”. I love sausages and I love polenta. A promising start. Polenta with a slab of meat is something that reminds me of my many trips to Bucharest – there’s something very Romanian about it. It’s not refined by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hearty, tasty food. That’s how I’d label this dish. It was tasty. The thing that made it come together were the pickled peppers – sweet acidity to cut through the saltiness of the sausage and polenta. A simplistic, rustic success. But nothing overly ‘wow’ about it.
For pudding, we actually deviated slightly from the menu and didn’t get the chocolate sorbet. The waiter offered us hazelnut ice cream instead as a better accompaniment to the “Torta di Caprese”. I’m pleased he did as the ice cream was scrumptious. Beautifully made, light and with the familiar taste of hazelnut running through it. The “Torta di Caprese” was pretty good too. Not too chocolatey and with a nice helping of amaretto cream seeping into the sponge. Once again though, it wasn’t extraordinary.
For the most part, I enjoyed our meal at Artusi. We were treated to some solid cooking, however on a few occasions I definitely felt the flavour combinations and ingredients weren’t quite right. Once again I think this comes down to the perils of a menu that changes daily. It is decent value for money though and you can appreciate the thought that goes into the cooking.
N.B. I’ve now been a second time and tried the normal daily changing menu. My verdict is exactly the same as it was for the first time I went – Artusi is good, but not amazing. Some of the food makes you go “YAY!”, but equally some of it makes you go “MEH”. On this occasion, there was one stand out venison dish, but the rest were all pretty average and in need of being elevated to the next level. I find the pasta dishes here the biggest disappointment as I’ve yet to eat one at either Artusi or Marcella that makes me feel fuzzy and warm inside like the food at places like Padella and Flour & Grape is able to do. The pasta is made perfectly, but where on earth is the luscious, indulgent sauce? Once again, I feel their USP of changing their menu everyday impacts on the overall tastiness of the food. And that is a shame. Overall, Artusi is good but it’s not quite Carling (excuse the 90s British advert reference).
Should you go to Artusi?
If you happen to be in the area it’s worth popping in. It’s good value. Just don’t expect to be blown away by the food.
How much does it cost?
£25-£30 with drinks
|Overall:||(6.8 / 10)|
|Flavour:||(5.0 / 10)|
|Creativity:||(8.0 / 10)|
|Presentation:||(6.5 / 10)|
|Service and Ambiance:||(7.5 / 10)|
|Value for money:||(7.0 / 10)|