28 May 2014

Antico Antics

Update (January 2018): Antico has now closed, but in its place is lovely pasta-and-wine restaurant Flour & Grape. 214, the downstairs gin bar, is still open and remains one of my favourite bars in London.

Well, I've been back in the UK for over a week now, so it's probably time for me to start blogging about London again. Last night, I went for dinner with my family to Antico, which hugs the southern corner of Bermondsey Street at the junction with Long Lane. I've enjoyed numerous cocktails at Antico's basement gin joint, 214, but hadn't eaten at the restaurant before. To be fair, it takes a while to work through all of Bermondsey Street's good restaurants, even if you're a local like me.

We booked through OpenTable, which was offering 25% off if you have at least two courses and sit down to eat between 6 and 7 pm, which sounded like a good deal. Although the restaurant was relatively quiet when we arrived at 6.30, by the time we left, the place was bustling and with only a few spare tables. It's always a good idea to book a table if you're eating on Bermondsey Street on a week night.

I was pleased to discover that I could order from the cocktail menu at 214. Unfortunately, they didn't have a crucial ingredient in the SE1 Sour I wanted, so I had a Bramble instead — not really much of a sacrifice, especially when it looked so pretty in pink in its highball glass. If you get the chance, do go downstairs for a drink or two in the bar. They have the most amazing gin collection and the gin flights are particularly good.

Antico's menu is modern Italian, mainly simple but well thought out pasta and meat dishes. Starters aren't usually my favourite course, but here I was torn between three. In the end, the prawn fritti with chilli won out and they were really tasty. Not quite as good as the numerous prawn tempura I consumed in Japan, but with fresh, succulent fish and a nice crispy batter. I could just as easily have had the burrata salad, though, or even the carpaccio of beef.

Although I was tempted by the slow-roasted pork shoulder tortelloni (I tried one of my mum's and it was delicious), my brother and I shared the forerib of beef, a great hunk of meat that was juicy and flavoursome and perfectly medium rare. It came with a very small rocket salad, some hunks of parmesan and a salsa verde but no carbs. With hindsight, we might have ordered some potatoes, although we certainly weren't short of food.

When pudding o'clock (my favourite time) rolled around, we were all pretty full but somehow found room for a third course. I couldn't resist the chocolate, hazelnut and almond cake, which was moist and rich. Best of all, it was served with chocolate popping candy on top, which gave it an unexpected and delightful sensation. The others had lemon tarts and a berry panna cotta, all of which looked great.

Antico might get less attention than some of its newer neighbours, but the food is great, the service friendly and the vibe somehow bustling but laid-back. In other words, a great little neighbourhood Italian restaurant. And did I mention the gin speakeasy in the basement?!

Antico. 214 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ (Tube: Borough or London Bridge). Website. Twitter.

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