At the heart of summer, lunch should be a little more special. A little bit longer, more leisurely. Linger for a few extra minutes over the season’s produce and a crisp beverage. (And if the weather is not cooperating, at least you have the food and drink to comfort you.) That’s where Zucca comes in. This Italian gem on Bermondsey Street is the perfect place to treat yourself to a longer lunch hour.
Zucca has been around for about a year now and is one of the venues putting Bermondsey on the London food map. The menu is seasonal and its focus on simple preparations and fresh produce is reminiscent of The River Cafe. And you know what? The food may not reach The River Cafe's exalted heights, but it is definitely on the right track. Even more, the prices are remarkably reasonable for such great food.
Over a complimentary 'amuse bouche' of small slices of frittata, Londonist and our dining companion decided to take two different approaches to our lunch. We were quite hungry, so would order a small pasta primi and a fish main. Our lunch date went for two antipasti starters and then a large order of pasta. Both antipasti – a seabass carpaccio and grilled asparagus with soft boiled egg and parmesan – were generously sized and very well executed, with no fuss or faff hiding the quality ingredients. Along with the amazing bread plate Zucca offers (the focaccia is addictive, salty and shiny with olive oil), alone they easily could have made a satisfying light lunch.
The handmade pastas are delicious, and at £7 for a small portion and only £9 for the large, a very good deal. We were tempted by the veal ragu but in the end went for the taglierini with artichokes. The sauce was silky and buttery, the artichokes delicate, sweet and faintly nutty. The small portion is big enough to satisfy, but it’s not going to lull you into a carbohydrate-induced nap back at your desk. It also left room for a lovely piece of fish; the sea bream with borlotti beans and chard was a delight. Lunch is what you want it to be at Zucca – a couple antipasti and bread, a full four courses or anywhere in between.
The service is fast enough for lunch time but did not feel rushed. The staff are friendly enough and attentive. They happily accommodated a late-comer with a portion of pasta after the kitchen had pretty much closed.
Zucca was one of our nicest lunches in a while. The only downside is going back to work, when all you can think of is a holiday on the Med.
Zucca is at 184 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ. Visit Zucca online at www.zuccalondon.com.