If you've ever read my blog before, or spoken to me about food at all, you'll know I'm a massive fan of The Maltings Cafe (visited here and here). In fact, I'd go so far as to call it London's best kept secret; a true gem for anyone who discovers it, with great food at unbelievably reasonable prices. There's one problem with Maltings, though, and that is the opening hours which are limited to say the least. Catering for a lunchtime crowd that work in the surrounding complex, there's not really a market for an evening, dinner shift in the immediate locale. That's where Zucca (Italian for pumpkin) comes in. Run by former River Café employee Sam Harris, Zucca caters towards a more varied crowd on the busier Bermondsey Street and is open for dinner as well as lunch, including the weekend. With the affable Andrea Locci, a familiar face from Maltings, once again at the helm, would Zucca deliver? A positive write up on Good For Lunch suggested so, and I had to check it out.
Note: Sorry for the awful quality of the pictures in this post.
The interior. Similar in style to Maltings, but with larger tables (and more of them, of course). Large windows let in a lot of natural light, and the white tables and chairs allow a fresh feel to the space.
There is also stools available so you can sit at the bar and enjoy some antipasti with a glass of wine, and watch the chefs in action in the open-plan kitchen.
A pumpkin, next to a Faema espresso machine, in the shadow of bottles of fairly priced wine from the Italo-centric list.
The menu. Unlike at Maltings, there is a physical, paper menu at Zucca, which changes less often (about once a week, though some items come and go with availability of stock). The menu is also longer here, with a number of antipasti available, as well as two pasta dishes, three fish and three meat dishes. The food is somewhat more expensive than at Maltings, reflecting the more expensive ingredients used, such as halibut and swordfish instead of whiting and bream. One could also factor in there is no service charge tagged on at Zucca; there isn't even the option to add it on when paying with a card, as it is factored in to the price and the staff are paid a decent wage, in a somewhat similar fashion to Per Se in New York City.
Bread: focaccia, baguette and grissini. All of the bread here is baked on the premises, and is offered free of charge, as well as Maldon sea salt and Planeta olive oil. The focaccia is unbelievable: appropriately oily and salty, with a slight crunch to the base providing a contrast to the puffy and springy centre and top. The other breads also prove a decent vehicle for the fruity olive oil and the Maldon sea salt - a significant improvement on the salt offered at Maltings.
Clams and samphire (£4). Clams steamed in white wine, garlic and chilli, topped with fresh ground black pepper, on a bed of wilted, salty samphire. A well judged starter, the sweetness of the fresh clams stands out and works well with the flavour-packed broth.
Buffalo Mozzarella, grilled courgettes (£3.95). Delicately grilled slithers of courgette, accompanied by a generous mound of buffalo mozzarella. The silky and soft courgette offers a smoky contrast to the milky and delicate cheese, whilst the drizzle of olive oil rounds up a good dish.
Slow cooked lamb, aubergine caponata (£12.95). A liberal amount of slow-roasted leg of lamb on an exemplary caponata, the creamy aubergine complementing the sweet-tasting new season lamb, with the tomato base providing an excellent platform for the rest of the dish.
Pappardelle with meat ragu, parmesan (£8.25 for a main course serving; £6.25 for a starter portion). The home-made pappardelle has a pleasing bite, carrying the tangy beef, pork and veal ragu, before another dimension of richness in the form of the grated parmesan is introduced. The sauce is minimal, instead allowing the shredded and tender chunks of meat carry a more intense flavour.
Not pictured: Chocolate and espresso cake (£3.25). Incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake, without an unbearable sickly sweetness, with a good depth of flavour.
The bill. About £15 each, albeit without any alcohol. Incredibly reasonable, especially when you factor in there is no charge for service, the bread is free and replenished without question, and a carafe of tap water is placed on the table immediately.
As you may be able to tell, I'm a fan of Zucca already. The service is charming and warm, whilst the quality of the food easily exceeds the expectations one could place on it from the prices. Some people have said I'm too nice about restaurants on this blog, but when you're eating at places like Zucca, and seeing the hard work of the team involved is paying off, you can't help but be positive.
- ▼ April (6)