For many people Kensington High Street is synonymous with one thing: shopping. Plenty of shopping. It’s easy to see why when the streets are lined with fashion outlet this, department store that, and anything in between. Along with its thrill, shopping does work up an appetite too. So if the discerning gent finds himself all shopped out following a shopping spree, where should he head to for good food on the high street?
Acciuga, located at the end of the High Street is one such place. Offering traditional Italian cuisine from Liguria but also with influences from Piedmont and Tuscany too, its menu tempted Elysium Magazine to the point where we just had to try.
The Look, The Feel
Acciuga (a-choo-ga) means anchovy – now that’s not the most showbiz of names for any restaurant whichever way you translate it. However the name has more in common than you’d first think. Like its namesake, this restaurant is modest in size and unassuming in presence, but once you look a little closer or take a bite you’re hit by big flavours and lots of character.
That’s the type of restaurant Acciuga is. It’s a narrow venue and the décor is plain, but like most things Italian, it’s still done with a touch of class. Seating is a mixture of tables for two and bigger tables for groups and families. The walls also feature canvas artwork which can be brought should something catch the eye – the restaurant makes a habit of featuring the work of new Italian artists regularly.
The menu has been crafted by head chef and patron Guglielmo Arnulfo and brings together a series of native Liguria dishes. Emphasis is placed on a menu that’s not overly extensive but offers a range of dishes that shows off the flair of the chef. After getting settled in and taking the waiter’s recommendation on wine, a fine Tuscan red, it was time to experience the food.
Like a traditional Italian, the menu is based on the typical three courses of Antipasti, Primi and Secondi – followed by desert is you still have the space for it. To get the evening underway we sided with the Recco’s style cheese focaccia and the crockpot of chicken liver pate (both £10 each). Before these arrived at the table we were greeted with an amuse-bouche made up of fish, bread and vegetables. These two mouthfuls were full of flavour and the perfect way to start the meal.
Soon after the Antipasti arrived at the table, filling the surrounding air with smells of toasted bread and grilled cheese. The cheese focaccia was most impressive – a simple dish made with the best ingredients gave each mouthful a delicious taste. The chicken liver pate was flavoursome too, complimented well with the ricotta cheese and crisp breads. With the taste buds well and truly fired up we were looking forward to the main courses.
For the Primi, on the recommendation of our waiter, we choose the gnocchetti with spinach and ricotta along with the Piccage green pasta with beef ragu (both £15 each). Simple enough they may sound but they were both big on flavour, and perfectly sized in portion considering our second main course was to come.
Secondi is traditionally the course that features meat or fish and who are we to argue against tradition. So it was the Ligurian style sea bass and the lamb with artichokes (both £20 each) for the discerning gent and his dining companion. Again the waiter was very helpful here with his recommendations, insisting these were the standout dishes. He wasn’t wrong too – the sea bass was cooked with perfect seasoning absorbing the richness of the butter and black olive sauce while the lamb chops were wonderfully tender and working well with the artichokes.
After three courses along with the amuse-bouche you might think you couldn’t fit anymore, yet Acciuga has other ideas. Dining is not rushed so you get enough of a break between courses. No meal is truly complete until you’ve enjoyed desert and chef Arnulfo likes to keep the surprises coming with the pre-desert course – a bite-sized biscuit with a small chocolate soufflé which went down very nicely. It would have been rude not to see the desert menu, and the chocolate flan (£8) was too much a temptation. It’s like a warm chocolate fondant-type desert and was utterly delicious.
Acciuga is one of those restaurants where traditional food is utmost priority. Chef Arnulfo obviously takes great pride in the dishes he creates and doesn’t try anything too radical with recipes that have stood the test of time. He’ll often have a wonder through the restaurant towards the end of the night to talk to guests. It was good to hear his thoughts on the journey of a meal – it should start and finish in the same way with amazing flavours. Acciuga is a great find for Kensington High Street and is somewhere the discerning gent with a taste for authentic cooking will enjoy as much as natives from the region itself would.
Style: Authentic Italian
Contact: Acciuga, 343 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6NW – Tel. 0207 603 3888