18 October 2014

It Takes a Village

Soon after I moved to Bermondsey, almost exactly two years ago, I went for brunch at Village East, one of the many eateries that line the ever-lovely Bermondsey Street. It was great and I meant to go back for dinner but with so many other places to try in my neighbourhood, I didn't have chance to go back, although soon after their big refurb last summer, I did try one of their burgers at last year's Bermondsey Street Festival. The burger was a little disappointing, but it's hard to get barbecue mass-catering right, and I knew that they deserved a second chance (they are, after all, a sister restaurant of the Riding House Café).

Last night, we went to Village East for a family dinner and my good faith was rewarded. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First came the cocktails, which proved tricky because the drinks menu was varied and interesting. After considering the Smoker's Delight (£8.80) — made from tequila, whiskey, orange bitters and chestnut liqueur — I eventually went for the Pink Panther (£8.20): rum, pink peppercorn syrup, lemon and soda water. It wasn't as pink as I was expecting but it was fruity and refreshing — just what I needed after a hectic week at the office.

We shared a few nibbles to start: olives, sourdough bread with seaweed butter, and almonds doused with duck-fat. If I had been hungrier, I would definitely have liked to try the peanut and sweet potato bisque (£6) as a proper starter.

Instead, we jumped right into our mains. Most of the main courses are classic modern American dishes with quirky twists. I thought about having the soft-shell crab bap, but let's be honest: I was always going to order the burger. Actually, there are two burgers at Village East: the Longhorn beef and bone marrow burger or the cheeseburger. I'm not a big fan of posh burgers — they defeat the point, really — so it had to be the cheeseburger (£14), which came with fries, although my brother and I shelled out for a portion of bacon salt for our fries. The burger was impressive. It came perfectly medium rare and was juicy and flavoursome — a proper hearty, meaty burger. It came with an unannounced tomato relish on the burger, which I could have done without, but the burger was so tasty I wasn't going to let that interfere with my eating pleasure.

The puddings, including a fruity panna cotta, sounded good but unfortunately I was way too full. I thought about having a chocolate old fashioned, but I didn't thing I could manage even that.

Following the revamp, the décor at Village East is very New-York cool, all exposed-brick walls and insutrial-metal enclosed booths with comfy, distressed leather seats. By the time we left, it was very busy, as is the case with most Bermondsey Street restaurants on a Friday night. If you go, you should definitely book — because you can, if for no other reason.

Village East. 171–173 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UW (Tube: London Bridge or Borough). Website. Twitter.

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