‘Artisan’ is situated near the top end of Portobello, and it’s not the posh part. It’s dimly lit inside, so the frontage puts you in mind of one of those member’s clubs that requires a couple of discreet knocks on the door to gain entry. Happily, looks are deceptive in this case and we get a very warm welcome and a good choice of seats. The back wall is a mural of an Italian villa set back slightly from a square, and 2 metres in front of it is a big tree: real trunk, fake leaves, supposedly the most romantic spot in the house. I flick a seductive eyelid at my companion, but it looks like I`m going to need more than a seat under the tree to get her swinging from the chandeliers tonight.
The menu looks a treat, and as ‘Artisan’ bills itself as “One of the best Italian restaurants in London” we both agree to forget the lovey-dovey stuff for the time being and get stuck into the food. The USP for this place is the Italian / Fusion mix that puts squid ink hummus with the Octopus, throws in some tarragon chimichurri, scatters a bit of artichoke then drops on some micro cress. Accomplished, perhaps even a touch flashy, but I liked it a lot. Madames Vitello Tonata looked like it had been cooked ‘Sous Vide’, so had a lot of colour & a good flavour, but not quite the expected texture. The sour mayo tuna tatare with anchovy really needed an anchovy or two more as it was too subtle for a place that calls itself artisan. ‘Artisa’ for me equals simple, bold flavours that you know about when you burp.
Saffron Risotto with Roast Marrowbone puts the smile back on madam’s face, and gets a no-holds-barred 10 out of 10. She had also chosen my Sake Yuzu Kosho spiced Veal Chop Milanese, just in case the risotto didn`t work out. I don`t know how I let this happen, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. It was accompanied by some rather insipid anchovy butter, but what the hell; that’s 2 more anchovies that must have escaped the net that night. I think I was nearer a 7.5 to 8 than an exultant 10; all good, but nothing to blow your socks off. Time to share an intriguing Grappa Panna Cotta with Balsamic Fig. More like a blancmange than a traditional panna cotta, and topped with a missed opportunity: a fresh half a fig simmered in honey and balsamic was in my mind, a thick figgy paste of not much distinction was on my plate. Shame, but an unexpected treat of house digestive (forget what the menu tells you, its tastes quite like a Negroni) did much to allay the disappointment. A nice touch to finish on, and typical of the very friendly and first class service throughout.