Zucca

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15 per person
Website: http://www.zuccalondon.com
Twitter: @ZuccaSam
Rating:

Walking along the foodie’s paradise that is Bermondsey street, its hard to know where to start. Behind almost every door is a tempting restaurant, gastro pub or cafe seeking to tempt the passerby. Not that you can usually just wander in – the growing reputation of the street means its increasingly hard to get a table without a reservation.

Zucca, a modern Italian restaurant, is one place well worth making an advance booking. The decor is minimalist and fresh, while the food offers some of the finest Italian cuisine around. Perfectly cooked fish sits alongside rich ragu on the ever-changing seasonal menu – not a pizza in in sight.

The highlight of our meal (just) was the starter of crisp ‘Zucca’ fritti (deep fried winter squash)- unusual and incredibly moorish. Get a bowl for the table to share and watch them disappear!

Verdict:
Delicious Italian food, friendly service and reasonable prices (for the area). It’s a great place to go for a special occasion, or just a low key lunch if you want to sample delectable treats on offer.

Vapiano Pizza Restaurant

Where: Great Portland Street, W1
When: 22/02/12 (open everyday)
Website: http://www.vapiano.de/frame.php?lang=uk
Price: £6 – £9 for a pizza.
Rating:

As you enter Vapiano it’s a busy, noisy, bustling space, not unlike nearby Oxford Street , and very befitting of its location. For confused newcomers a member of staff will quickly spot you and explain the unusual ordering process. You are given a card which you use to order your drinks and food and then pay for everything at the end on your way out. On placing your order at either the pasta or pizza bar, your meal is prepared fresh. You can either stay and wait or return to your table to be buzzed when the food is ready for you to collect. The lack of at table service may be off-putting for some, and those looking for a formal dining experience are unlikely to be wowed. However, the informality creates a fun atmosphere and rather than feeling like a gimmick it actually helps speed up the ordering process, leaving you to enjoy your meal.

The menu has a variety of interesting dishes, including my favourite- the parma ham, honey and fig pizza, with a thin, crisp base and high quality fresh ingredients. Each table has a middle section with chilli oil and basil and rosemary plants so you can customise your dish to your liking. These little touches are great, and contribute to a far superior experience than other generic pizza places. In fact, the pizzas are the best I’ve had in London, and so despite having visited a couple of times I’m still to try the pasta. The desserts are also delicious with rich chocolate cake, tiramisu and cheesecake to temp you. The house wine, at just £11.95 is surprisingly good.

Verdict:

If you are looking for an informal place to meet friends for lunch or dinner, after shopping or at the start of the night, Vapiano is perfect. Great food, a relaxed atmosphere and fantastic value for money; what’s not to like?

Cantina del Ponte Restaurant

Where: Shad Thames SE1
When: Every day
Website: http://www.cantinadelponte.co.uk
Price: £35 per person (2 courses and wine)
Rating:

The thought of relaxing with a glass (or three) of crisp Italian wine and the promise of delectable culinary delights helped us through the horror that is… moving house. After exhausting our ability to negotiate with flat pack furniture, and London traffic, we treated Colin’s parents to a meal at Cantina del Ponte – an Italian restaurant overlooking the River (and a 10 minute walk from our new flat). Having eaten here in the outdoor area last Summer, we knew the food was great, but on this visit I was particularly impressed with the indoor ambience. It feels special and the staff are professional, without being stuffy or overbearing. It also avoids the tourist trappings one might expect from the area, being reasonably priced with an interesting range of dishes (those looking for pizzas and associated standard fare will be disappointed).

We made life very easy for the kitchen, with three of us choosing Goats Cheese for starter and Seafood Spaghetti for main. The Goats Cheese was served with focaccia bread and chilli jam; I could have happily eaten this twice. However the cheese would have benefited from being slightly warmer. For seafood lovers the spaghetti is a real treat: a large metal dish delivering sweet prawns and mussels, tender squid and baby octopus in a velvety tomato sauce. It was exactly what was needed to revive our weary bodies. To accompany our meal we drank a Madergale Bianco which perfectly complimented our food. This is also served in carafes – a nice touch.

Verdict
Cantina del Ponte is a great choice if you are looking for delicious Italian food on the river, and a visit is highly recommended. It’s also great in the Summer, when you can sit outside and watch the world go by.

Fire and Stone Pizza Restaurant

Where: Covent Garden, WC2
When: 12/01/12
Website: http://www.fireandstone.com/pizza/coventgarden/index.asp
Price: £7 – £11 for a pizza.
Rating:

It is often a fruitless exercise to reinvent the wheel. Unless that wheel is made of dough and covered in curry that is. Fire & Stone in Covent Garden is a pizza place with a twist: conventional toppings are replaced with a wealth of different worldly ingredients to create a range of truly different pizzas.

The menu is divided between five of the seven world continents – South America has been combined with its northernly neighbour into simply “the Americas”; Antarctica was probably omitted as not even Londoners could stomach a penguin and walrus steak pizza with ice cube shavings.

What remains is a potential trip around the globe in 23 different pizzas, ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Melbourne and Marrakech. The cheapest destination on your culinary travels is Naples – the bog standard mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil at £6.95. The stop that will leave the biggest total on your bill (£10.55) is, unsurprisingly perhaps, Texas – BBQ sauce, mozzarella, BBQ rump steak, roasted red onions, roasted field mushrooms and sun-dried tomato salsa.

For starters we split a dish of grilled bruschetta with Parma ham, melted brie, caramelised onion jam and pesto. It was delicious and washed down with some of the tasty wine we shared at a not too pricey £14.85.

When it came to the pizzas, Ruth went East and I stayed a little closer to home….

Ruth: Jakarta – satay sauce, mozzarella, satay chicken, spinach, aubergine and red chilli, topped with slow-roasted tomato chutney, roasted peanuts and coriander.

If I had to pick a last meal it would probably be satay chicken. So while I’m not normally a fan of mixing cuisines I couldn’t resist the Jakarta pizza. The base was lovely and crispy, but unfortunately the topping didn’t quite meet my expectations. Without a tomato based sauce, the pizza was a little dry and the chutney was an odd addition. Overall it was good to try something different, and the satay sauce was perfect, but I think I’d stay closer to home next time.

Colin: San Sebastian – mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy chorizo sausage, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, roasted red peppers, topped with aioli and chives.

The pizza was nice but be warned the potatoes are deceptively filling – halfway through I was already getting full. The chorizo was gorgeous, and, instead of by diced up really small, was fanned out in half sausages across the pizza. A nice touch. My only complaint was the aioli, of which there was far too much and at times it came to rule the roost over the other subtler flavours.

Verdict:

The pizzas were good although a little overloaded with ingredients that didn’t always compliment each other as well as you might hope. At the same time, though, that is also the reason to go to Fire & Stone: to try a different sort of pizza. Roast dinners, curries, English breakfasts can all be found on top of pizza bases and the prices don’t break the bank. If it weren’t for the round-the-globe gimmick, it would clock up 3 stars. It gets an extra half for daring to be different.