214 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, London, SE1 3TQ
I have recently been immersing myself in the soft launch of Bermondsey Streets newest addition Antico London. Before Christmas I ventured along to their lounge bar the day it opened to enjoy that freshly painted wall smell, bare seating and free nibbles that they were trying out. A combination of half price drinks with menus yet to be printed they were more than happy to make up anything you wanted and to drop suggestions too and delicious spicy prawns left me wanting to like this brave new venture. This week I tried again as their kitchen went into full swing.
So what do you get with Antico? On entering you walk down the stairs on your left and enter a basement bar where you can either take a sleek leather booth since with added red and brown cushions looking surprisingly good together or a high red stool and browse the compact but complete menu for a pre or post dinner drink. They have played with some of the classics (ginger beer and raspberry was a tasty but sweet mixture) and did an outstanding martini with lemon twist. The menu definitely shows its Italian roots with Campari and Aperol prominent on the cocktail list. They also have a promising bar menu from simple almonds to tapas like nibbles, squid, hams etc around £4 a go.
Upstairs a small restaurant space looks much bigger with the clever use of mirrors and glass walls allowing us unobstructed views of the whole room including the chefs in the kitchen and the comings and goings of the bar. Décor is clean and modern and although they have fitted in as many tables as possible, previously an old antique market, it does not feel cramped; in fact a background of contented chatter and jazzed up Michael Jackson was set at just the right level.
At least 4 whites and 4 reds (Italian of course) covering all the price brackets are served both by the glass and the carafe the carafe giving two generous glasses each to two people. Bread comes with very fresh olive oil and starters, similar to bar snacks, are more about sharing with tuscan sausage, mozerella salad and bruschetta alongside smaller dishes like olives. Mains range from £10 for pasta to £16 for meat courses and were excellently executed and generous to boot. I finished with suitably rich gelato but tiramisu, an Italian staple, was a slight let down. This is only their third day of service so we cant demand perfection¦yet.
Antico are trying to establish their unique sell point and this is going to be a tough job. Not only are they next door to Decanter restaurant of the year Zucca, but the rise of the aperitivo hour in London is quickly taking off and would be my 2012 tip. However it is no bad thing that they are promoting this very European tradition; a drink and nibble between work and dinner is one of my favourite habits from across the Channel that I am delighted to see being revived in London. I hope that this newcomer can make their footprint on the ever growing Bermondsey Street scene. I know that I will be returning.
Budget: Happily Affordable
Pre Design: Impressing Your Date, After Work Drinks, Sip Fine Wine, Romantic Night