Bottles & Battles: The Italian Bar's One More Reason To Get To Elephant & Castle, Pronto

Bottles & Battles ★★★★☆

Bottles & Battles: The Italian Bar's One More Reason To Get To Elephant & Castle, Pronto Bottles & Battles 4

Elephant & Castle. It's rocketed from one of our least likely parts of London to end up on a Friday night — on any night, really, if you had a choice — to the top five. All within a couple of years, and mostly thanks to Mercato Metropolitano. And (one of several excellent pitstops vying for your dollar inside the market) thanks to Italian wine bar, Bottles & Battles.

Plenty of italiani digging into cured meat boards and doing some exuberant toasting there the evening we visit: always a good sign.

One of many good signs.

The good/great: the bar itself — a lovely spot, tucked into a crevice of the market, hung with warm, bare-bulb lighting and lined with old wooden crates. Wine bottles are its main trade, also its main design note.

The waiters: enthusiastic about the sprawling range of wine in a way that suggests intimate knowledge of every bottle (we'd love to be at that lock-in), and unfazed by our guest's dairy allergy. And the wines we try on their recommendation are brilliant and surprising: a cloudy, small-production Sottoriva from Malibran — an unfiltered prosecco with a low-fizz dryness that's nearly beer-like; Santa Chiara from small producer Terre Nobili, golden but with the warm intensity of a red.  

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The lamb ragu pappardelle's magnificent. Simple and tomatoey. Regal and gamey. We could eat this repeatedly for multiple consecutive meals, breakfast included.

The rigatoni carbonara's more challenging. The sauce is that perfect, velvety cling of great carbonara. And we love the mammoth kick of salt at first bite, but by the end of the plate it's become mouth-puckeringly intense. At a guess, it's just a generosity of parmesan and cured pork (salt-cured guanciale?), teetering over into too much of a good thing.

Our sole other caveat in a long list of reasons to visit here, is the bar stools. Repurposed ironwork draped in woollen blankets, they look elegant and welcoming, but are thoroughly, slipperily awkward to perch on.

But hey — there's far more to love about B&B than to gripe about. Get there early after work and snag one of the low tables. Order the lamb ragu. And drink whatever the waiters tell you to. Your next south London night out, sorted.

Bottles & Battles, Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR.

Last Updated 10 March 2019