Pescheria Mattiucci

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.

pescheria

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:

1IMG_2134Crudo 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.

2

IMG_2136Calamaro 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.

3

IMG_2137Tartare 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.

4

IMG_2138Mix 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.

5

IMG_2140Crunchy 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.

6

IMG_2142Sfogliatella 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.

7

IMG_2143Pastiera, 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.

8

IMG_2145Cassata (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

Restaurant review: Lime&Tonic presents Italian Passion at Debut Contemporary

A new season of supper clubs has dawned, where business rather than food is the focal point. The era of the LinkedIn dinner party has arrived and Bayswater’s Debut Contemporary is leading the field.

At the helm of this gallery-with-a-difference are Samir Ceric and Zoe Knight, whose vision of “discovering, mentoring and supporting talent in contemporary art” has helped dozens of aspiring artists turn their practice into a viable trade over the past two years. Supper clubs are just one of the ways in which Ceric and Knight expose their artists to potential buyers, collectors and industry officials.

On Wednesday night the Debut team combined forces with the Italian Supper Club, in partnership with Lime&Tonic, and treated their guests to a four-course tasting menu. On arrival we were given flutes of a cranberry cocktail and taken on a mini tour around the gallery by the artists, who explained their inspirations and artistic backgrounds. After mingling, we were led downstairs to a long white table adorned with beautiful bouquets of roses and tulips. A seating plan separated duos and after a quick brief from the chef about the menu and the Macedonian wines, the meal commenced.

Salmon sashimi with pickled vegetables arrived with a glass of white wine. The latter was great, full-bodied and not too sweet, and it helped wash away the taste of the courgette and cream roll. One of the two slices of salmon was very good, tender and fresh, but the other was sinewy and tough. We were also given a bread roll which was hard, cold and served without butter.

Things got better. The next course – castelbelbo ravioli with truffles – was delightful. The only complaint would be that there wasn’t enough of it, and really that’s a compliment.

Next was monkfish served with fennel purée, which was done very well, and even appealed to the fennel haters at the event. The blend of potato mellowed the potent vegetable and it was well suited to the white fish. Another glass of the same white wine worked well here too, but as an addition rather than as a mouthwash.

Dessert was a coffee panna cotta served with liquorice shavings and biscotti. The panna cotta was slightly too gelatinous in texture, but very tasty, and the biscotti were perfect – warm, crunchy and light.

Though a mixed bag, overall the food wasn’t good enough to warrant the £75-a-head charge, but then the focus of the night wasn’t really about the food, it was about art and business, and that was a raging success. Conversations that started over salmon with strangers were conversations with friends by dessert. Business cards were swapped and invitations extended.

Taking food out of the equation, it was business and art that successfully fused at Debut Contemporary’s supper club and created an environment far more personal and vibrant than any boardroom. A thoroughly entertaining and different approach to business, I would recommend attending another of Debut’s supper clubs, but as a lover of art, not of food.

Alice Audley

Food: 12/20
Drinks: 15/20
Service: 14/20
Italian Passion at Debut Contemporary: 41/60

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/03/restaurant-review-italian-passion-at-debut-contemporary/

 

Made in Italy

Sometimes you just have to surrender to the clutches of the King’s Road. Prejudices and stereotypes aside, the mile and a half stretch of tarmac does have an undeniable amount to offer. I speak of shops, galleries and – of course – restaurants. Last week I combined the latter two of this trio; art and food, or rather food and then art.

I was Parallax Art Fair bound with my aunt, cousin and mother, but rather than go there straight, we decided to make a night of it (we rarely all get together) and have a little dinner party beforehand.

Though I normally have my finger on the dining pulse (top-table emails), it was my cousin Alexandra who picked our foodie destination. After a phone call and a reservation, she led us to her choice and at approximately 5.59 p.m we found ourselves outside number 257 King’s road, SW3 5EL – at Made in Italy.

Welcomed gaily into the rustic establishment, we were then taken to our table on the first floor. This was actually rather disappointing as the hustle and bustle (atmosphere) of the place seemed to be more rife downstairs. We weren’t perturbed enough to warrant a move and settled into our seats. It had, like Bubbledogs and Bodo Schloss, that chalet feel. Indeed after sharing a bottle of red with my aunt, I felt that I was in the midst of a rather successful apres ski session.

That was at the end of the meal, let me take you back to the beginning. The exhibition started at 7.30 p.m, so we opted for just the one course each. I went for the goat’s cheese and asparagus salad, the others for pizzas. Just as the waiter moved off from the table, we suffered a severe bout of food envy as an antepasti beautiful enough to make vegetarians jealous swerved past us. Bugger.

“Next time,” piped my aunt. “Next time we’ll get one of those.”

I was glad she said this, not only because of the appetising look of the sliced meats, but also because we were having an absolute ball. It was the sisters and cousins catch up of dreams; conversation,  jokes, anecdotes and a magnificent amount of laughter.

Half-way through a particularly entertaining tale about a pompous woman who accidentally used her £500 white shirt as a napkin, our food arrived. Perfectly oozing, the goat’s cheese on top of my salad caused mutual delight (my mother shotgunned some of it). Then arrived the pizza, yes singular – the three pizzas had been merged together to create the most enormous pizza I have ever seen in my life – the ultimate cheesy extravaganza.

Need I say more:

pizza

I couldn’t even zoom out enough to capture it all!

And before I fall into a lactose-induced coma (just at the thought of it), here is a snap of the salad:

goatI will most certainly be heading back to Made in Italy to sample the rest of the menu and will, for the time being, keep any King’s Road prejudices to myself.

Food:*** Company: *****

Jamie’s Italian

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Having been a long term fan of Jamie Oliver since the days of ‘The Naked Chef,’ it was with high hopes that I entered ‘Jamie’s Italian’ on a cold blustery lunch time last week. Situated in the city centre of Leeds, you could walk past the restaurant quite easily, unlike his contemporary Ramsey, Oliver has gone for a less flashy, less name dropping approach to the restaurant chain industry. A discreet, elegant piece of silver Tahoma font inscribes the bottom right of each window rather than the huge block capitals that overwhelm the restaurants of the former. ‘That’s Jamie,’ I thought as I pushed open the large wooden door an escaped the Baltic weather that ensnared the streets.

Greeted by huge glass vials filled with an array of pastas and an extremely friendly Canadian waiter with a grin that rivalled the Chesire cat, I was filled with great expectations. Guided quickly through an understated restaurant floor (wooden tables combined with aluminium chairs) I was soon nestled comfortably at a table with a pleasant glass of Pinot Grigio. ‘This is going to be good,’ I thought as the waiter bounded off to ‘grab’ me a menu.

The menu arrived and suddenly everything went drastically downhill. I don’t need a menu to be leather bound or gilded with gold, I don’t mind if it’s a laminated piece of A4 but what I do need from a menu is it for to be legible. Jamie’s menu was chaotic. Bright colours were combined with a small type face that was a struggle even for my 20/20 vision and starters and main courses were jumbled together without thought. In fact, the whole process of trying to decipher the menu left me feeling distinctly sea sick.

Aside from the fact that the menu was aesthetically displeasing, the contents too left me extremely disappointed. Though featuring Italian classics such as the ‘Carbonara’ and the ‘Lasagne,’ at least half of the menu had been contaminated with fennel. Would you pour Sambuca over a red pepper and goats cheese salad? No. So why add fennel? Why add that aniseed abomination to an otherwise perfectly delectable meal? Obviously I have a strong subjective, but I know that I am not the only one with this viewpoint. In fact, to check that I wasn’t giving fennel an unfair and biased criticism I took it to the streets. After asking 20 random individuals whether they liked fennel or not, I was met with the following results:

Liked Fennel: 2

Disliked Fennel: 16

Did not know what Fennel was:  2

So on a percentage scale, over 75% of people dislike (hate) the revolting vegetable, which means for three quarters of the populace half of Jamie’s menu is irrelevant and useless. A distinct lack of Market research for the Naked chef.

With my fennel rant now over, let me bring you back to my little table and the choices I made from the other half of the uncontaminated menu. For a starter I opted for the ‘Calamari’ and for the main I went for the ‘Truffle Tagliatelle,’ marked out as an indulgent delight. As I waited (a perfectly acceptable amount of time) I looked around the restaurant, with the kitchen in full flow and burgers being delivered left, right and centre I started to get food envy. That horrible feeling that creeps through you when you start to realise that not only have you made the wrong choice but that also you are salivating at the plate opposite you rather than at your own.

Licking my lips I looked back down at the multi-coloured monstrosity resting at the table, ‘no, no, no’ I thought, ‘I haven’t made the wrong decision, I’ve gone for the ‘Indulgent’; it’s going to be great.’ Again disappointment ensued. However first let me discuss the starter.  A big fan of squid, the Calamari starter was one of the worst I’d had in a long time. Obviously fried for a good five minutes too long; as I dipped a tentacle into the rather bland garlic mayo and took my first mouthful I felt like I was biting into a rubber tyre. At the end of two I felt a filling at the back on my mouth loosen and decided it was in my best dental interest to give up.

The main course: the ‘Indulgent Tagliatelle’. A healthy portion, topped with an ample dousing of Parmesan, I began to salivate. Though as I took my first spoonful I soon realised that the release of my salivary amylase was completely unjustified and really rather a waste. It wasn’t rich, it wasn’t bland, it wasn’t creamy, it wasn’t dry…it was just completely and utterly mediocre in every possible way and mediocrity, for me, is not synonymous with ‘Indulgence.’ The only positive of the ‘truffle treat’ was that it filled a void, but then a tasty pasta dish would have done the same.

As I paid the bill and wrapped myself up to face the freeze, I couldn’t help feeling sad. An avid watcher and a long term fan, I felt let down by the man whose cookery books have been the core of so many of my suppers. For an Italian chain, it is with regret that I urge you not to bother with Jamie’s – but to go to Piccolino instead.

Star rating: 1/5

Jamie’s Italian

35 Park Row

Leeds,

West Yorkshire

LS1 5JL

(0113 322 5400)


Salvo’s

Salvo’s – Otley Road, Leeds.

After being labelled ‘the best independent Italian Restaurant’ by Gordon Ramsay’s ‘The F word’ Salvo’s has good reason to be smug. With crowds of customers wanting to experience the television credited institution, Salvo’s has monopolized the Leeds Italian market – but what really is so great about the eatery? I travelled north to investigate.

Stationed just off the Otley road, which incidentally is the 17th most congested road for its size in Europe, there is nothing enchanting about the restaurants exterior. Pond green with gold tints, Salvo’s is hardly a visual delight and after navigating through the traffic ridden, ambulance wailing streets my initial impression for this so called ‘best’ restaurant was disappointment. I must be missing something I thought – arriving at seven-thirty the queues were already stretching into the street. With the entrance out of sight for the sheer number of people, it took a good ten minutes to actually get in. As you finally manage to squeeze yourself through the front doors, past the numerous gaggles of overweight northerners, you think you finally might be able to eat. You are wrong.

The queue continues further culminating in a rather haughty looking blonde female empowered by a clip board. If strike one was the wrestle to get in, strike two was certainly this woman’s attitude. Aloof, with the expression that she had just smelt something rather nasty this woman had the p.r skills of an amoeba.

‘You, yes from you,’ she barked at a man directly behind me, in an angry school teacher manner ‘you’re looking at an hour to an hour and a half wait.’ There was no apology, no ‘I’m sorry for this inconvenience’ – just Führer-esque orders. This man wanted to give her (albeit indirectly) his time and money, surely a little politeness isn’t too much to ask? The fact was, there were enough people to fill the restaurant twice over so his wallet wasn’t needed, thus she didn’t need to be polite.

Eventually we made it to the clip-boarded fiend; she barely took her beady eyes of the table plan as she demanded ‘What’s the name?’ Again a distinct lack of ‘please’ – I mean it is one syllable, hardly taxing. Anyway, we were quickly ushered out of the way – ‘have a drink at the bar.’ The bar – you could hardly see it for swarms of people, another fifteen minutes queuing before you manage to get a drink, by which time you’ve been faffing for a good half an hour and are parched.

Placing your order you face another ten minute wait until the drink actually arrives and it comes with the menu. Yes, they want you to pre-order. Surely part of the great dining experience is sitting down, feeling relaxed and perusing the menu at your leisure – not at Salvo’s. No indeed, at Salvo’s they want you in an out as soon as possible, they have three people eager for your space and that equals three times as much money. There’s good service and there’s fast food, and this is certainly the latter. Within seconds of sitting down your starter is plonked before you and no sooner as your knife and fork clink together it is swept away. No time to digest, the main course arrives. It’s cleared. Pudding? No thank you. Coffee? Yes please. You can tell they’re pissed off. Coffee arrives. Would you like anything else? They want you to ask for the bill. No thank you. They stalk off. Coffee finished. They return – repetition – would you like anything else? No just the bill, thanks. Within seconds it’s in front of you, obviously already printed off and they arrive with the card machine. It’s a military operation. Before you know it you’re outside, confused to whether it was your idea or theirs and have indigestion.

The most frustrating thing about the whole scenario, however, is that (if you had the time to enjoy it) the food is actually not that bad.  Filo pastry King Prawns with a sweet chilli dip and the Confit of Lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes are amongst the menus highlights. Also noteworthy are the wide selection of Pizzas…which are undeniably pretty tasty – but indeed in an Italian restaurant isn’t a good Pizza a given? Overall we must return to the dining experience as a whole, which was nothing short of dreadful – ‘Best Independent Italian restaurant’ – no ‘f-ing’ way.

 Experience 1/5
Food 3/5