There are restaurants that don’t stand out, there are restaurants that you have to look for, but there are also completely indistinguishable restaurants, when – even though your taxi has dropped you outside the exact number on the road – if you take just the tinsiest look away, you’ve lost it. Pescheria Mattiucci is one of these restaurants.
Situated a short walk away from Ladbroke Grove Underground (8 Blenheim Crescent), though it has a thick white frame above its door screaming to be painted upon, Pescheria Mattiucci only advertises itself with a thin, fluorescent-blue-lighted script which reads ‘Fish Boutique.’ Perfect to attract the fly, or insects in general, but rather less captivating for the homosapien. Once, however, you have managed to locate Pescheria Mattiucci, it’s worth the wait.
With Italian foundations, this family rooted restaurant prides itself on the locality and sustainability of its produce. Line-caught fish are sent fresh from Naples, Sicily and their small hometown (the name of which now escapes me), every other day, so menus are always changing and the meal that I tell you about, may very well not exist when you go to test it out. For your sake though, I hope it does.
I was out with Blackhouse man again; our second supper together in just four days. This meal was also courtesy of his website, which after losing £20 on the Grand National just hours before, was all the more agreeable. Welcomed by the front of house; a petite, dark-haired beauty, we were given a history of the restaurant, before being brought over a booklet filled with brown paper print-outs of the latest dishes. For the size of the restaurant, there was a surprising amount on the menu. Rather than choosing ourselves, we opted to ask the waitress/owner/front of house for her advice. “What would you recommend?”
And under this guidance, over the next three hours we tested eight courses. And here they are:
1Crudo Mediterraneo (Raw Fish Platter: prawns, sword fish, squid & tuna)
Told to start with the white fish, I tucked into the squid and the sword fish. Raw squid is a texture too far for me and its flavour was nothing special. The sword fish was better, but if it was a dish by itself, not worth ordering. The tuna was brilliant; sprinkled with black salt and dabbed in lemon, it was fresh, smooth and moreish. The prawns, better still; a brilliant bite to the body, followed by a good, long, hard suck on the head – what more could you ask for? If they did a Crudo purely of the darker fish, it would be an absolute winner.
Calamaro stuffed with prawns, provola cheese and zucchini
Rather like a healthier version of a potato tot, the Calamaro was nicely familiar in texture. It would work well as a side, rather than purely as a course.
Tartare of Red Head prawns from Marina di camerota
We’d already sucked on its contemporaries’ heads, but this prawn matched up in taste. However, by this point in our dining proceedings, I’d rather reached my limit with raw shellfish.
Mix of telline and Sardinian veraci clams cooked with lemon, chilli and parsley
‘Cooked’ – hurrah. After being told we were going to have clams, I had a flash back to a story that one of my best friends told me last year. She was on a trip to Mexico and was taken out to supper at a fish restaurant by her hosts. They ordered her clams. A plateful came to the table and were served with slices of lemon. My friend was told to pick up a clam, sprinkle it with lemon and then eat it. She picked up her clam, sprinkled it with lemon…and, to her horror, the little creature started wriggling and writhing. She said it was like it was wailing: “Please, please don’t eat me!”
Fortunately ours didn’t put up such protestations and, though were a hassle to eat (a lot of effort for not a lot of food), were good.
Crunchy scallops served with potatoes puree and spicy cabbage
They were back in their element with this dish. Crunchy scallops were crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and worked beautifully with the puree and cabbage. A must have.
Sfogliatella Riccia (puff pastry, ricotta cream with candied peel)
Flaked perfectly and had just the right amount of filling. Would be nice for breakfast with a cappuccino.
Pastiera, wheat grain cooked with milk and ricotta with add of orange blossom and rose water, a sublime mix baked Naples.
Oh my! Oh my! This is something special. Aromas of roses and oranges hit your nasal passage and taste-buds simultaneously in one of the most pleasurable ‘put it in your mouth’ experiences out there. YUM.
Cassata (Traditional cake from Trapani, Sicily)
Sweet, really, really, really sweet. Too much of this number and even the non-diabetic will be reaching for the insulin. One bite’s enough; this is a pudding to share.
A hidden gem, though outshone physically by its neighbours, once you’ve made it in to Pescheria Mattiucci there’s no going back. Fresh and affordable, an evening in this fish boutique, is an evening well spent.
Food: *** Wine: *** Experience: **** Price: ££
8 Blenheim Crescent, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, W11 1NN