Tuesday, 4 September 2012
The Table, Southwark
What if I told you that there's a new restaurant opened up in Southwark, amidst the chain bars and office blocks in this deeply unpromising part of town, that was serving some of the best Italian food in London? Sounds unlikely, and yet there we were on Friday evening enjoying dish after dish of such delicate, heart-warming quality that I can barely remember having better at hallowed temples of New Wave Italian like Zucca or Trullo. For now, the Table has a profile as low-key as its rather flat name, but if there's one place in town destined to at least match if not eclipse the success of its rivals, it's this one.
First things first, though, and I should mention that I was invited to the Table by their PR people, and so didn't pay for any of it. I know this is of supreme unimportance to most of you, but it is also of extreme importance to some of you, so consider this my Full Disclosure. But my invitation, and this post, is an example of restaurant PR done right - I would never have even heard about the Table otherwise, least of all considered visiting, and now not only do I have a new favourite within walking distance of Waterloo Station but hopefully the handful of people who read this blog will have another place to put on their wish list, as well.
I always think you can tell a lot about a restaurant from the quality of the house bread. I knew I was going to like l'Enclume the moment I clapped eyes on their world class variations on a theme of sourdough, and so too the Table, theirs being a moist, light focaccia and a brilliant flaky cheese pastry thing. There's probably a fancy Italian name for it, feel free to add it into the comments if you know.
Starter of a whole roast quail was difficult to fault. I know the blobs of cheesy polenta look like they've caught a bit, but actually they weren't burned at all, just nicely crunchy. There wasn't too much pancetta on the bird, just enough to season and retain moisture, and the meat of the quail was flavoured brilliantly with Mediterranean herbs. For £8, as well, this was a hugely generous amount of food.
To follow, a massive veal chop, cooked medium-rare, showing a good char from the grill and accompanied by a healthy pile of buttery girolles. Bizarrely though, and somewhat unfortunately, this otherwise wonderful dish was presented with an ugly lump of fridge-solid truffle butter on top, which really didn't do anything for it at all. But yes, ignoring the butter, this was great, and I'm fairly sure such presentational quirks will be ironed out in the fullness of time.
Other dishes ordered by friends that evening were similarly impressive. Particularly good were some plates of tagliatelli, one with chunks of salty bottarga (cured fish roe) and another with porcini and parsley. For a far more expert appraisal of those than I could ever make, visit Helen Graves' report over on her blog. She also has an amusing upskirt shot of my quail, which is well worth a look at.
We soon learned that the quality of food at the Table isn't a fluke - head chef Cinzia Ghignoni has done time at Duck Soup and Angela Hartnett's Murano as well as the aforementioned Zucca, and indeed the style - and pricing - of the menu certainly has precedent. But just like places like Zucca, Trullo, and Tinello, you can eat incredibly well here for not very much money, and is yet more evidence that Italian food in London is reaching something approaching maturity. In this unfashionable end of Southwark, behind the office-block decor, and the humdrum name, lies one of the most exciting Italian restaurants around. Make your reservation now, before the hordes descend.
I was invited to the Table
EDIT: So yes, as many have pointed out, the Table isn't new at all, in fact it doesn't even have new owners. What can I say, I must have been wandering around Southwark for the last six years with my eyes closed. However, it has been refurbished, it does have a (brilliant) new chef and they have also started getting all of their vegetables from the St Mungo's allotments, a charity which helps rehabilitate homeless people. So not only is the food fantastic, you're helping improve society by eating there as well.