Anyone after a leisurely Saturday of foodie heaven, real estate envy and mooching should take themselves for a stroll down London’s super chic Bermondsey Street, conveniently located a few minutes from Borough Market. To borrow a phrase from Will.i.am, it’s the bomb dot com. The line up of quality restaurants on this strada is second to none- you’ve got Jose Pizarro’s teeny tapas and sherry bar, Jose, at 104, as well as his fully-fledged Spanish restaurant, Pizarro (194 Bermondsey Street). Newbie Italian, Antico, is at number 214 and Maltby Street Market and 40 Maltby Street are just around the corner. There’s also the White Cube gallery for your contemporary art fix. Look up and, Oh, there’s that Shard! Last, but certainly not least, is the don, the daddy, Zucca.
Oh Zucca, let me count the ways… elegant, seasonal and simplicity have become slightly cliched buzz-words for modern Italian dining but there’s a reason for this. It’s a winning formula and if it ain’t broke… another of Zucca’s joys lies in their thoroughly affordable menu; on the latest visit there wasn’t a main course over £17.
If one was to draw comparisons, I guess a more casual and approachable version of the River Cafe is as close as it gets. There’s an open kitchen along one wall, light airy dining room and minimalist design, a specialty house olive oil and an ambient room housed above the restaurant where they smoke and cure their own meats (River Cafe actually has a cheese room - same, same, but different).
Here are some mouth-watering examples of their kitchen’s wares.
Zucca’s signature dish- Zucca fritti, battered and deep-fried sweet pumpkin encased in light salty batter with crispy sage leaves. Unbelievable. Also pictured, burrata with pappa al pomodoro (a sort of flavourful tomato-bread mush). Utterly delicious and drizzled with their fabulous peppery house olive oil.
Next up, tagliatelle with gorgonzola, walnuts and cima di rapa all bound up in a delicious brodo-esque sauce that was simultaneously light and rich. If such a thing is possible?
Followed by tender charred octopus with cianfotto (a caponata-style summer vegetable stew), capers and garlic with a scattering of mint, all doused in that delectable Zucca olive oil.
Also scoffed, but not featured photographically, was an amazing stew of monkfish, clams and ramson (wild garlic- tis the season).
For pudding, it’s hard to resist their consistently stunning, wobbly, vanilla-flecked panacotta with poached rhubarb on the side. Zucca’s version is so instantly recognisable and exemplary that, no sooner had I posted this photo to facebook, I had comments identifying the pud’s origins.
Room for cheese? 6 varieties? Not a problem.
The homemade crackers with fennel and pumpkin seeds and the puffed-up parmesan biscuit were a lovely touch and the thoughtful flavour details echoed bread we received at the beginning of the meal (not pictured). This was some of the most incredible soda bread in the darkest shade of treacle and studded with walnuts. The recipe is, regrettably, top secret and the bread not for retail. The loyal waiting staff weren’t giving anything away but apparently it’s made with wine. It’s a crying shame they don’t sell loaves as it would seriously complement the olive oil and take away wines which they do sell. That, Zucca, is your only fault, other than this I have nothing but love for you.
Zucca, 184 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
Closed Sunday dinner and Monday all day