As I was walking down Portobello Road for my lunch at Pescheria Mattiucci I noticed a Kurt Geiger store waiting to open up its doors. Myla and All Saints further up the road were screaming of high street infiltration too, and suddenly I understood why campaigners fight to save Portobello’s independent boutiques and shops. Although we all love a bit of H&M, chain restaurants and high street stores are less than exciting and turn quaint neighbourhoods into mass market areas without individuality or charm. Is Portobello Market next up?
Luckily, as I stepped through the doors of Pescheria Mattiucci I felt comforted that there are unique gems left. With its maritime theme and full-on Mediterranean vibe I felt as if I had stepped through the Narnia wardrobe and ended up in a seaside resort, far away from London. The place certainly has character. Pescheria Mattiucci, a family run fishmonger and fish boutique (that’s a fish restaurant for the rest of us), arrived in Notting Hill earlier this year, ready to educate the London masses on cooking, preparing and buying fresh fish.
The Italian family is very keen to emphasise that they sell fresh seafood, and that it’s organic too. In less than 12 hours from that the fish is caught in the Mediterranean sea, you can buy the catch in Pescheria Mattiucci and enjoy it fresh just like you would in Naples (where the Mattiucci’s are based). The shop gets 3 deliveries a week, which is why it’s impossible to say if you’re going to find a mackerel, tuna or prawns on your next visit.
You’ll find fresh vegetables from the Naples area, herbs and spices, anchovies, tomato sauces, and other deli products here too. Everything is made from natural ingredients and is of high quality. The fish is line-caught, which make it eco-friendly and sustainable, and you can pretty much leave with a guilt-free conscience if you leave with anything from the Pescheria, although of course, you do have to consider the food air miles since everything is shipped over from Italy.
Pescheria Mattiucci is primarily a fishmonger, however you can eat lunch and dinner here and the restaurant seats 25 guests (50 standing). It’s not your conventional restaurant venue (which is why the Mattiucci’s prefer to call it a fish boutique) and with seats in the form of barrels or high bar chairs you might not want to bring your 90-year old grandma for a long dining session. It is however, excellent for a long, lazy lunch.
Diego Simonetti runs the kitchen and is ever so passionate about his food (like the rest of the Mattiucci’s). He gives us a delicious first taste of the Mediterranean with a starter consisting of tomatoes grown from the base of Vesuvius, Hawaiian black salt, just delivered extra virgin olive oil and bread from Gail’s, up the road. The black salt, which I’ve never had before, makes a perfect marriage with the tomatoes and olive oil. It’s impossible to resist dipping the freshly baked bread in the olive oil, tucking in bite after bite.
The next plate to come in is a raw red tuna slice from Sicily, with capers, tomatoes and black salt. This sashimi-style dish is light and lovely and the tuna is so fresh it melts in your mouth. There’s no sad Tesco tuna about it. The following dish is baked anchovy with provola cheese and tomatoes. I expect this to be salty, but I’m quite surprised when all I can taste is the smoky flavour of the cheese and the freshness of the fish. The seafood here isn’t overdressed with complicated herbs or spices, and since it’s so fresh, all it needs is some grilling or steaming. Simple and natural, seem to be the key words here.
The last treat is my favourite – untreated prawns (non-sulphite) served with buffalo ricotta cream-filled courgettes and a balsamic vinegar reduction to dip the goodness in. Usually the prawns we buy at the supermarket, or even at the fishmonger’s, are treated in sulphite to make them last longer. Unfortunately, this covers the prawns’ real flavour, which, when compared to the untreated ones, suddenly taste bland.
Before we leave, Diego supplies us with fresh and sweet clementines, walnuts and a good cup of espresso. If I had been drinking wine, I would’ve stayed for much longer, enjoying the atmosphere as much as the food. Who wants to leave the imagined heat of Naples for the chilly London wind? Pescheria Mattiucci might not have the most comfortable seats, and it’s quite small if you intend to bring a big group, but have a taste of the fresh seafood and the flavour-bursting vegetables, and that soon becomes minor. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and Francesco Mazzei of L’Anima, use the Pescheria as their fish supplier, so if you want to enjoy a piece of fish fame, you know where to go.
I enjoyed lunch at Pescheria Mattiucci as a guest of the restaurant.