Mark Hix re-assesses Venice on a 48-hour whistle-stop tour of its local foodie gems

Mark Hix
Restaurateur Mark Hix

The last and only time I visited Venice was some years ago for the Bianale when Tracy Emin was representing the UK. It was a brief trip; I was probably only there for 36 hours and didn't see an awful lot except for a load of the London art crowd, which made it something of a busman’s holiday.

Last week I returned with some like minded friends in the restaurant, wine and food world. It was an intense 48 hours of fantastic food and wine organised by my good friend Russel Norman, who co-owns Polpo restaurants.

He knows Venice like the back of his hand and his restaurants are very much influenced on the places he took us to on our whistle-stop culinary adventure. Every bar and restaurant we visited had something recognisable; it was a fascinating glimpse into how his restaurants developed, whether it was the Polpo book sitting on the shelf behind the bar or the linen napkin light shades.

My favourite restaurant was a tiny place called Artisti, where they serve the local, spring season tiny soft shell crabs (moeche) simply deep fried with some chunks of garlic. Some of us had bigoli pasta with spider crab and I had a simple cold, fine spaghetti with seafood.

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Russell firmly held the itinerary and each morning when we woke at the waterside Pensione Seguso and headed off on our jaunt to an interesting little bar for Venetian breakfast snacks.

At a fantastic place called All’arco we had delicious anchovies on toast, spread with cold butter and mini toasted sandwiches filled with chopped up chard and cooked hamand fontina. This was a great way to eat, rather like Spanish tapas and it certainly helps the negronis go down.

The most bizarre part of the trip was a visit to the Venissa winery on an island called mazzorbo. I’ve visited many a winery over the years, as has my good friend John Hutton, and we had the usual tasting and lunch then on departure our group were given a bottle to take away. On our journey back on the water taxi we discovered the bottles were empty. That’s certainly a first for me.

Make your own cichette

  • Toast or griddle some slices of baguette
  • Leave to cool
  • Spread with some softened – but not melted – butter
  • Find the best anchovies you can – spare no expense on this part, my favourite are the Spanish Ortiz anchovies
  • Lay the anchovies on the toast

Mark is now “in residence” at Fenwick of Bond Street, providing lighter dishes from breakfast through to dinner. For bookings call 020 7629 0273 or email