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Acciuga

343 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6NW, United Kingdom

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Editor's note: in December 2015 it was announced that the restaurant would close and relocate in 2016.

This restaurant opened on the site of what was Timo in June 2013. The young (born 1989) chef is Guglielmo Arnulfo from Genoa who trained as a lawyer before switching to cooking. Mr Arnulfo trained at “The Cook”, a one star Michelin restaurant in Genoa, than moved to work with Edoardo Ferrera, who formerly had one Michelin star in Milan at "Don Carlos", at his new restaurant "Vizzi e Virtu" in Genoa. Prior to opening his own restaurant he spend eight months working with Claudio Pasquarelli in Bergeggi, near Savona, another one star Michelin restaurant. The name Acciuga means “anchovy”.

The short (32 choice) all-Italian wine list ranged from £32 to £95, with a median price of £45 and an average mark-up of 2.9 times the retail price, which is a normal level for London. Examples included Roero Arneis Pradvaj Malabaila di Canale 2012 at £37 for a wine that can be found in the high street for £15, Roero Riserva Castelletto Malabaila di Canale 2008 at £49 for a bottle with a shop price of £23, and Brunello di Montalcino, Podere Brizio 2006 at £95 for a wine that retails at £42. In addition there was a prestige list, which had choices such as Antinori Tignanello 1999 was £250 for a wine that will set you back £95 in a shop, while Antinori Solaia 1997 was £430 compared to a retail price of around £304. Water was £3.95 a bottle. 

Focaccia was really hard (9/20), never something that a chef should be aiming for in focaccia, though a plain roll was rather better (12/20). There was a nibble of mozzarella with tomato and basil on a little of the focaccia, though the tomato was pretty tasteless and the base quite hard, the dish over-salty (10/20). Focaccia al formaggio tipo Recco (£10) was essentially cheese on toast, pleasant enough and nicely done though tricky to mark (perhaps 12/20).  Cuttlefish salad had reasonably tender cuttlefish, but the salad of julienned carrots, red pepper and courgettes with olive oil was quite crudely presented (12/20). Better was deep-fried courgette flower stuffed with mascarpone and courgette (£10), on a bed of spinach, the frying of the breadcrumb coating quite accurate, the balsamic vinegar dressing giving some balance to the dish (13/20).

Fusilli pasta with cherry tomato (£14) had pleasant pasta, the tomato having rather limited flavour (12/20). Better was trofie pasta (£14) with pesto, the pasta made from scratch with pleasant texture and the pesto sauce good, served with green beans. The pesto is apparently imported from a supplier called Roberto Panizza in Genoa, and this dish was the best of the evening (14/20).

For dessert (£8 apiece), semifreddo cappuccino had reasonable coffee flavour but a sickly sweet caramel sauce (12/20). Fruit crostata had a base of crème patissiere topped with assorted fruit (strawberry, raspberry, apple) and biscuits, which was pleasant enough though an easy dish to assemble, the fruit of ordinary quality (12/20).  Coffee (at a steep £4.20 for an espresso) was Illy and was fine.

Service was, not to put too fine a point on it, a shambles. When we arrived two staff behind the bar were engrossed in conversation, so we waited, then waited some more. Eventually a third member of staff (actually the chef, who for reasons that elude me seemed to be doing the front of house management this evening) turned up and we were seated. Dishes were confidently set in front of the wrong diner at each course (and this was a table for two) although by the end of the meal they just gave up and asked who ordered what. Our nibbles and starter arrived before our wine, and there was no attempt to top anything up; this last I do not really mind, as they had left the wine just about within reach. Our waitress was adept at trying to remove partially drunk glasses of wine and water, less so at clearing our finished plates. I rarely comment on the service in my reviews, but this was remarkably inept.

The bill came to £65 a head with a modest bottle of wine, without ordering any main courses or pre-dinner drinks, and by ordering pasta rather than the higher priced main courses; it would be easy to spend more than this. Overall this was not a particularly memorable experience, though the food was generally decent enough. However at this price point (or indeed pretty much any price point) I would hope for a better standard of service. Perhaps the operation would work better if the head chef actually stayed in the kitchen and cooked, but this was a far from successful evening.   

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