Review: Union Street Café, Southwark

On Friday, the work girls and I visited Union Street Café for late lunch. We'd been looking for somewhere in the Southwark area and hadn't even considered Gordon Ramsay's most recent offering. It doesn't look like much from the outside, and since its opening a year ago the initial buzz seems to have settled. But, curiosity got the better of us when an offer slipped into inboxes with a set lunch menu at £19 for two courses and £25 for three.

The restaurant looks much more attractive from the inside; a more sophisticated blend of warehouse utility that's come to be popular in a lot of places. On a Friday afternoon, I expected it to be a little more busy. One of only 3 seated tables at the time did however mean that the friendly staff were more than happy to patiently go through the menu for us.

As I'd heard, the menu can be a stumbling block for diners being mostly in Italian. After a quick translation we ordered our food and were recommended a bottle of Fiano Mezzogiorno. This was a crisp white with passionfruit notes, and the cheapest on the menu at £20.

To start, Neelam and I opted for the peperoni & bagnacauda. Peppers with a warm dip made from garlic, anchovies, oil and butter. A great starter if you want something light, and served warm during Autumn and Winter.

Deena went for porcini & sage fritti. Not something that looks too attractive but presented well on some fresh leaves and a wedge of lemon.

For the main course we all went for the same, risotto, pumpkin, smoked scamorza & red wine with a side of zucchine fritte to share. Again, not the most attractive of dishes. Although the girls weren't too convinced, we did all agree that the risotto was cooked to perfection. I found the sauce to be gorgeously creamy and the smoked scamorza gave a subtle caramel note. It just missed something fresh and more inviting. Although saying that, this is something I'd love to recreate at home during the winter months.

Then, my favourite part. We ordered three different desserts in order to have a try of each. Clockwise: torta del giorno (torte of the day), vanilla & grappa pannacotta & grapes and semifreddo al torroncino & hot chocolate sauce. The torte of the day was a pear frangipane; a little lacklustre and dry even with the ice cream. The pannacotta was perfectly wobbly and the grappa grapes cut straight through the sweetness. Lastly, my favorite, the nougat semifreddo was nutty, creamy and with the addition of hot chocolate sauce, perfect. 

I have mixed feelings on this place. There's no doubt the dishes were packed full of seasonal artisan ingredients. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful with the menu. The dishes were fresh and simple, just lacked a little something more.

We all agreed that perhaps it was a little overpriced for essentially what was a simple lunch menu. The atmosphere was very informal and relaxed which didn't really match with an almost untranslatable menu and a 12.5% (discretionary) service charge slyly added to your bill.

I'd be curious to return for dinner or to try their cocktails at the bar, or even just for coffee; just to help make my mind up!

For three people - three courses with wine and water, the bill came to around £111 with the discretionary service charge.

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