Wind around the edge of the Thames, ducking under the colourful ‘Power’ archway as you do, and in the shadow of Battersea Power Station is where you’ll find Fiume. Translating as river, the contemporary Italian sits in front of a water feature that reflects the golden hue of the recently renovated chimneys towering above.
The dining terrace out front will obviously come alive in the summer; for now, chairs are weighed down with blankets and faux furs to snuggle up under, among lemon and olive trees, patio heaters and fragrant pots of rosemary and lavender.
Inside, the restaurant’s décor reflects the menu – it’s smart but relaxed. There’s counter dining and high chairs by the bar for quick plates of cicchetti (fried calamari to crostini draped with mozzarella, anchovies and roasted peppers) and homemade breads from the wood-fired pizza oven. The rest of the room, framed around the open-plan kitchen, is well spaced and comfortable – an elegant palette of brass and copper accenting blue (baby and teal) leather, hugging marble and dark wooden tables.
The menu proper focusses on the recipes of southern Italy, or Mezzogiorno, jumping around the eight different regions. You’re not going to find platters of charcuterie listed under antipasti, instead a wobbly burrata – ready to burst and reveal its explicitly creamy centre – paired with roasted, bitter radicchio. Another plate of octopus – slow cooked until yielding with only the faintest interference from any cutlery – is joined by a bed of cannellini beans heavy with a rich stock. It’s a lesson in the beauty of beige food.
Pasta is handmade, so choosing from the primi menu is difficult – you’ll want a taste of everything. Thin, yolk-yellow strands of tagliolini are punctuated by sweet and sea-fresh flakes of white crabmeat, pepped up with flecks of Amalfi lemon zest, fresh red chilli, flat-leaf parsley and fronds of dill. It’s the sort of dish you crave at home but can never quite get it as good as this. Another of bowl of Welsh lamb ragu fettuccine is slippery, buttery and oh so comforting – rubbles of the flavourful meat and their rich juices marrying into a moreish sauce. This is Italian pasta as it was originally intended.
The kitchen team (headed up by another Francesco, Chiarelli, whose worked with Francesco Mazzei at L’Anima and Sartoria) are no less successful when it comes to the secondi round. Aubergine parmigiana is a fine example of its kind – meltingly soft slices of the melanzane layered with an intensely rich tomato sauce, stringy (in the best kind of way) and milky mozzarella, and, of course, bags of salty, sharp parmesan – served at just the right temperature, warm and not roof-of-your-mouth-scorchingly hot. Sardinian speciality, seafood fregola, is supremely light but masterfully layered with flavour. Shallot, garlic, chilli providing that classic Italian mellow hum in the background, sweet-sharp tomatoes and a medley of grassy herbs enrich the broth, while bubble-like fregola bob around competing for space with caramelised, barely cooked, sweet scallops, juicy prawns and the softest mussels.
Fiume menu must-order
Everything we tried on this menu is stonkingly good – and we’re already planning a return visit to try the zucchini fritti – but don’t leave without trying the cocktail menu, too. A mix of classic and contemporary, the list is like a boozy love letter to Italian spirits. A white Negroni Del Mazzei with Tanqueray gin, rosolio (rose liqueur), Cocchi Americano vermouth, and a stick of three plump Nocellara olives slicked with booze, hit the spot for us. The wine list is also all Italian, with each region of origin clearly highlighted. The staff can help with your choice, as many might not be familiar.
The dessert menu is as succinct as the other sections of the menu – so when the tiramisu sells out, like it did on our visit, there’s not that much variety to tickle your fancy, other than coffee granita, ice cream, fruit dressed in zabaione and sbriciolata (a Nutella torte). Unless you’ve a real sweet tooth, order another pasta.
Fiume price range
Mid range, although the price can stack up if you order from every section across the menu like we did. But it’s worth it.