Fiume, one of the first restaurants to open in the newly developed Battersea Power Station, is full of promise, writes Emelia Hamilton-Russell
As Italian-speaking readers might suspect Fiume (‘river’) sits right on the banks of the Thames. Squatting among the new and aspiring high-rises of Battersea, the riverside location is just about the only place in London where the air still feels fresh.
My dining partner and I are greeted warmly when we arrive. The décor is generic, but it has that wonderful sense of bustle that comes from having an exposed kitchen.
Opened in November, Fiume is the latest venture from Chef Francesco Mazzei, best known for the Savile Row institution Sartoria. The restaurant is set to ride the wave of renewal sweeping through the area: it’s less formal, livelier and fresher than those across the bridge in the more affluent environs of Chelsea, but only a stone’s throw away.
We start with some nibbles: calamari and crostini. After a recent, harrowing experience with overcooked calamari, I’m pleased to report these are little bites of fried heaven - not too limp, not too chewy. Similarly, the crostini are a triumph - fresh mozzarella offset by sharp anchovies. After this, we share a truffle and Grana Padano doughnut. This is the stand-out item of the whole dinner, a rich and pungent flavour that is unique to the well-toasted truffle. And it’s a good job we like it. A small dribble of truffle oil escapes onto the table, meaning we’re still getting strong whiffs of the earthy dish long after the puddings have arrived.
My dining partner orders the lamb scottadito for main, and I have the sea bass, a bad choice. It is good but ordinary - I could have made it at home, though admittedly with inferior ingredients. The scottadito, however, is a different story. Roughly translated, it means ‘burning fingers,’ so named because the lamb dish is so tender and irresistible you burn your fingers in the hurry to eat it. It certainly lives up to the name, and excuses the kind of caveman bone-nibbling that would simply not be allowed north of the river. Boyed by our daring, we order mozzarella-laden potatoes - a fancy version of cheesy chips, and just as comforting.
For pudding, we get a sbriciolata, which is pastry layered with solid custard and compote - a simple construction despite its unpronounceable name. I also ordered a ‘chef’s special’ tiramisu. With a cheeky grin that capped off a wonderfully personable, friendly service, the waiter asked me to guess the chef’s secret ingredient. I guessed amaretto correctly and felt extremely pleased with myself.
As we reach the end of the dinner, my dining partner orders a limoncello for me. Apparently, if you have a glass before bed it completely prevents a hangover. As I feared, it tastes like a Strepsil.
The Battersea Power Station development is about to be the biggest property transaction in the UK. Better transport links will arrive soon but, as it stands, I had to catch three buses and take a long and confusing walk to arrive at the restaurant, and got completely lost trying to leave it. I wake up hangover free and full of enthusiasm to return, were it not for the restaurant’s construction-site location. At least until it’s finished and signposted.
Emelia Hamilton-Russell is a researcher at Spear’s