I don’t know whether it’s still there, but in 2007 there was a low key ristorante in Florence that looked out onto the Ponte Vecchio. My friend and I, both students at the time, ate there almost every night during our stay in the city, downing toxic levels of glutinous carbs, charred meat and rich red wine. It was the main reason I left Florence after two weeks with a debt as large and unavoidable as Brunelleschi’s Dome. Acciuga on Kensington High Street brought back memories of that establishment. It is a simple Italian eatery, with enough flashes of modern design to make it feel stylish. I actually found its simplicity jarring at first, so accustomed had I become to restaurants having pornographic wallpaper (Flesh & Buns) and exposed brickwork (most new eateries east of Shaftesbury Avenue).
Acciuga (which means ‘Anchovy’ in Italian) mixes an unpretentious atmosphere with a few elegant details, such as champagne bottles used as decorations. When I went, two rotund finance patriarchs were debating fiscal policy against a backdrop of Coliseum inspired wallpaper, whilst a group of pristine women were in the full throes of an informal bacchanal. There are few restaurants in London I would be happy to spend more than four hours in, but the timeless Acciuga is one of them.
The menu is split into Antipasti, Primi and Secondi. The portions are generous so just order two plates from two of the sections and share. I am (like most nine year olds) obsessed with pesto, and before dining at Acciuga I would have told you that Sacla’s Aubergine variety was the best, the benchmark through which all pesto should be measured. Now that benchmark is the pesto on Acciuga’s famous Troife al Pesto. It’s incredible! It’s so thick, and contains the perfect ratio of pepper, parmesan and pecorino. As for Secondi, I would recommend the juicy Lamb Chops with Artichokes or Lingurian Stile Sea Bass (well I probably would have I tried it, but my date inhaled it all within about 2 seconds). Even though we had both gained ten pounds by this point, we refused to skip the puddings, which turned out to be as rich and decadent as any of the best pastries in Rome.
This restaurant is set up for fans of classic food and old school dating, so you won’t be instagramming every plate or making out in the corner, which is actually a good thing. Book a table at the back and swap stories of European travel (minus all gap year tales) until you realise it’s been five hours and you need to give in to your carb coma. If you have the energy to continue the night (credit to you!) then head down to Ruski’s Tavern for a complete change of pace.
The prices are Berlusconi levels of alarming, so perhaps avoid if it’s the end of the month. All Primi are priced at £15 and Secondi at £20, which means £35 is the minimum you will end up spending per head without wine, water, pudding or service. I can’t think of any other reason to fault it.