The summer’s approaching and even pale face nightwalkers like myself are drawn nearer to the water come the warmer months. Hordes flock to the Southbank in search of sun, sights and good places to eat – but, in my humble opinion, they’re all missing a trick. Though only opening in the last few months, Florentine is a new all-day brasserie and flatbread-fronting restaurant with more than enough character to compete with its touristy counterparts on the river.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Florentine is located pretty much opposite Lambeth North Station in a relatively unimpressive area of town, but the inside of the restaurant gives quite a different impression to its exteriors, with low hanging quirky lighting, high ceilings, an open kitchen and golden tones and fixtures throughout. There’s an air of ‘hotel’ about the space (because, well – it is situated within a hotel), but that’s not really a negative; there’s plenty of space, the tables aren’t squished together and the overall feel is an open, fresh one, that lends itself well to its ‘all day’ approach. We headed over early evening, and there was a fairly eclectic crowd, with a few groups, a few families and also the odd couple dotted around. One thing that did stand out here worth mentioning was the service – the staff at Florentine are friendly, attentive and have a great knowledge of the menus, without even so much of a hint of pretension.
The Food & Drink
The restaurant’s food ethos is centred around fresh, simple dishes with the odd theatrical indulgence. They’re known for their sharing ostrich egg dish, brunch menu and their dribble, Instagram-worthy flatbreads – and they don’t disappoint. Main dishes are priced anywhere between £11 - £18, and the flatbreads around £8, so while not dirt cheap, you do get a lot of bang for your buck across the board. In a grossly unfair twist of fate, my date on the night was diagnosed with a severe lactose intolerance the day before we visited Florentine – and because of that was a touch limited on what he could eat and try. Ever the good guy about town though, I took on the lion’s share of tasting responsibilities, and managed to happily chow my way through a selection of the chef’s favourites. The dinner options span anything from Veal Milanese (£16) to a signature Tomahawk Steak to Share (£67) – and there’s plenty to choose from, even if you are grappling with a pesky new intolerance. Standouts for me were the rich and creamy smoked burrata, the beautifully-presented spinach, goat’s cheese and tahini flatbread, and the freshly baked, sickly sweet venetian doughnuts served with a balancing Marsala cream. Drinks-wise, expect craft beers from Brewdog, English wines via Chapel Down and a selection of Florentine's own cocktails – if you’re after a recommendation, go for the Florentine Fizz (£8), a heady mix of Absolut vodka, St Germain, lemon and prosecco.
Open, simple and with bucket loads of its own character; it’s easy to give Florentine the two thumbs up. For what it lacks in views it makes up for with delicious food and faultless service – which I’d take any day of the week over novelty plates and stuffy waiters.