Fun, daring, delightful. Those three words have come to characterize the food and buildings of Big Mamma’s Italian restaurants across London and the around the world. Jacuzzi Ristorante, their new site on Kensington High Street, is no different. It manages to capture that magic and spectacle synonymous with its sister restaurants while being brilliantly unique with new and exciting dishes served alongside famed favourites in an indoor garden setting.
The group always prides itself on service and a relaxed environment and Jacuzzi is no different. I was greeted at the door by a smiling Luisa and when we were seated the manager Ricardo was quickly over to talk through the menu.
The menu itself is incredibly diverse and draws on dishes from across Italy and its islands. Well-known favourites from Ave Mario and Circolo Poplare such as the Spaghetti al Tartufo and Tiramisu return but they are accompanied by a superb selection of new inventions and twists on classics.
The drinks list is similarly eclectic. Not only are there cocktails galore but the wine list is extensive and caters to all tastes and price points. By the glass, there is a great selection of grapes and varieties from across Italy but buffs won’t be disappointed either. Superb vintages of Sagrantino di Montefalco (2011) and Tignanello Antinori Supertuscans (2011-2019) are standouts.
I started things off with Lo Sgroppino, a truly unique drink with homemade sorbet, limoncello, and champagne. The texture was thick and creamy and combined with the lemon and champagne for a perfect indulgence. The OJ Spritz was a straightforward classic done well too.
For antipasti, we were suggested Crochette di Vitello Tonnato, Crudo di Gambero Rosso, and Burrata al Pistachio alongside a warm freshly baked focaccia. The crochette are croquettes filled with pulled veal and a coating of tuna salsa. The combo of flavours was intriguing and the caper on top finishes off the dish perfectly. The burrata is light and fresh in contrast with some heavy options and the ceviche stood out. These Gambero Rosso from Sicily are chopped and combined with a mix of lime, celery and red onion on a burrata base. The punch of the fish is freshened by the citrus and the burrata for a complete bite. Oysters came along as a surprise treat and my word was I happy to see them. I’m usually firmly in the camp that believes that oysters are at their best plain, simple, and without dressing. These though completely changed my mind about that. They are served in a balsamic reduction that brings a sweetness to the salty shellfish. I would still ordinarily revert to the more traditional serve but the dish is a must-order as a one-off.
Our pasta of choice was the Raviolone Bricolore. A new dish, it consists of elongated ravioli parcels filled with either lemon or spinach ricotta. The pasta itself is good and holds its firm consistency well but the dish is punctuated by a provolone cheese sauce, toasted hazelnuts, and toasted sage leaves. In a peculiar way, those and the sauce and the most flavoursome element.
Big Mamma has made its name on the perfect simplicity and freshness of dishes such as its Carpaccio so I was worried that the edition of truffle might spoil something superb. Plenty of restaurants are trending towards the ruining of plates with needless editions of truffle oil or inauthentic flavourings. The Carpaccio al Tartufo suffers no such fate. The meat is topped with parmesan, truffle cream, horseradish and truffle shavings as well as a good helping of rocket. Living up to the show of the dining experience it is split and rolled tableside in delightful parcels. It certainly adds to the event but I did find myself unravelling to add seasoning and mediate the quantity of cheese in each bite.
Desert wise it is difficult to know where to start. Ricardo was keen for us to try chocolate fondue and it is the new showstopping addition to the menu here. The chocolate is still sweet despite masquerading as dark on the menu but is irresistible when placed on the candle stand in the centre of the table. The accompanying churros were what confused me most – long, chunky, and neither authentically Italian nor Spanish for that matter. They were by no means bad but seemed a strange straying from the patriotic nature of the rest of the menu.
I had no such objections to the Pistacchio Profiterole Napoletana. The serving of ice cream in the pastry ‘sandwich’ is beyond generous but doesn’t overpower. The warm hazelnut chocolate sauce poured over the top is genuinely to die for. Priced at only £12 it is easily large enough to share between two or even three people and kept me coming back for bites time and time again.
The Limonemissu was the final delivery to the table and an example of a better-executed twist on the classic. The génoise was thick but the mascarpone, marmalade, and limoncello balanced everything off and resulted in a much lighter way to finish the meal than the other desserts on the menu.
The food at Jacuzzi is stunning but make no mistake, the experience of dining in a remarkable environment with such attentive and knowledgeable service is what makes the whole thing so special. For me, the perfect kind of restaurant is one where you are happy to sit all afternoon or night and Jacuzzi achieves that and then some. Hidden from the outside are four floors – each with its own theme and style that still manages to blend together. The bottom sees the return of Big Mamma’s party toilets (disco-themed here), and the ground floor is adorned by trees and plants before ascending to the second takes you onto the terrace of an Italian villa. Those same stairs continue onto a more conventional third level that still maintains the relaxed garden aesthetic.
The service rounds the whole thing off. Attentive but not annoyingly so, Ricardo tells me that they have had none of the recruitment issues plaguing hospitality across the capital and the country as a whole. Despite it being just their first week they have nearly a full complement and everyone we encountered was friendly and able to talk through each dish’s origin and construction in detail. It’s these things that make all the difference.
Jacuzzi Ristorante is both alike the other Big Mamma restaurants and at the same time entirely unique. It is this that makes the group so superb. The constants of good service, stunning setting, and above all brilliant food continue but new, unique additions and environments make each one different. At times it might all feel like a bit of a show but the quality of food ensures that the important things remain front and centre.