Adjoining Flat Iron Square – one of Southwark’s established foodie hubs – is Union Street, a street that runs parallel to the river and has its own food offerings to rival the square. Union Street Café is one aptly named offering, and one of 15 in Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant Group. On offer is Northern Italian cuisine. It’s mid-October, halfway through London Restaurant Festival, so the time is ripe to try a new spot. What better time to see how Italian himself, head chef Davide Degiovanni, show us how it should be done? And at £26 for 4 courses & more, Union Street Café’s LRF menu is a steal.
Entering Union Street Café, we’re off to a good start. Exposed walls and the glass frontage is offset with plush leather seats, evoking the feeling of both ample space and comfort. The tables are placed with enough distance between, so you can only eavesdrop on your dining neighbours if you really try. Here we began the London Restaurant Festival menu, with the Italian sangria. A pink-to-clear fade of the drink makes this appealing to the eye, its taste appealing to the palate, as it’s not as sweet as its Spanish counterpart.
Accompanying the Sangria was the bruschetta. Here was a far cry from the English version of bruschetta churned out across the country. The crunchy bread was slightly moistened by whipped ricotta and enhanced with a marinated olive. A mysterious piece sat next to the bruschetta which looked like a neutral coloured piece of coral. It was in fact, parmesan rind. Here they take the rind off the huge parmesan wheels, bake it in to the oven for less than a minute, drizzle with oil and voila! The texture would be best described as tougher than meringue, but dissolves just as satisfyingly on the tongue. Moreover, the waiter informed me one can make this at home (FYI, whack it in the oven at medium heat, 45 seconds – 1 min, drizzle with honey for optimum taste).
Having had our palates warmed up with the sumptuous bites, we continued on to the antipasti. I enjoyed a generous amount of burrata, the mildness was offset the intensity salsa verde and made furtherly satisfying with salted potatoes.
My friend opted for the porchetta, here the thinly sliced meat was presented in a decorative plate of fig, watercress and horseradish.
Dingley Dell pork rib eye was the main event; the tender meat had a faint smokiness and left to be the centre piece of the dish itself, only complemented with the sweetness of red peppers, a scattering of almonds and surprisingly subtle Asian flavours of sesame and soy in the jus.
Providing the variety in the set menu was the cod with squid ink, seaweed and potatoes. Cotton-white cod resting on a darkened bed made for a striking dish in appearance as well as taste.
Succeeding this, we sampled the hazelnut cake with crema gelato, the indulgence was complete with the small pools of chocolate on the cake’s surface.
The upside-down Mirabelle plum cheesecake creaminess was contrasted with the tart sharpness of the plums.
The Union Street Café London Restaurant Festival menu does not finish with desserts, though. Instead, we were invited on a tour around the kitchen. The general manager took us around a meticulously organised kitchen, pulling out drawers of where the fresh pasta was stored after being made every morning, and giving us samples of the homemade gelato. We were shown around each station and saw the precise care exhibited at each. No part can let another down, that’s how the unity in each dish is created. The kitchen tour only furthers what is already evident in the dishes: Union Street Café is a bite-back against the tired, overdone “Italian” chain.
Through combining fresh ingredients with the insightful knowledge of how to treat them, Union Street Café conjures up Italian dishes, as they should be.
Book Union Street Café’s London Restaurant Festival menu here.
Union Street Café – Gordon Ramsay Restaurants
Harling House, 47-51 Great Suffolk Street, London, SE1 0BS