Union Street Café // Southwark // London

The latest restaurant in the Gordon Ramsay Empire has been subject to huge media attention. The opening saw punters flirting with the thought of David Beckham lingering about, which ensured that the first few months of booked were confirmed within a nano-second. While dreams of Mr. Beckham failed to materialise, it’s clear that some serious money has been spent on kitting this place out. However, the industrial cavernous dining room doesn’t really create the buzzy atmosphere that it was perhaps intended to, though the downstairs cocktail bar is a wonderfully intimate space.

So has the same amount of attention gone into the food? Unfortunately, it’s seems not – for the most part. While the menu does sound promising, the dishes sit awkwardly between snacky sharing plates, things your might cook for yourself at home and other more “restauranty” dishes.

A prime example of this is the veal saltimbocca. If you’ve had a great or even good one before, it will be hard to disguise your frustration. The meat, rather than being soft and tender is overcooked and has a rubbery consistency. The magical marsala sauce that is meant to give the dish its zing has all but evaporated and the cheese on top of the meat has congealed rather than melting lusciously; a bit of a sad tale.

The selection of sharing style starters doesn’t offer anything that is much more exciting either. The burrata, creamy mozzarella and warm bean salad is pleasant, as is the interesting combination of the calamari, beefsteak tomato, capers and squeeze of lemon, but they don’t make you go “wow”. When food is as simple as this, the ingredients need to be exploding with flavour and the best quality possible. Without that flavour, the price of many of the dishes seems slightly overinflated.

Though one thing that Union Street Café does get very right is its desserts. The pannacotta with grappa is perhaps the best we have ever had – wobbly, rich and simply served with some ripe figs and a sprinkle of rosemary. Creaminess, freshness and a splash of alcohol; perfect.

It’s sad though that the rest of the dishes don’t deliver on this simple philosophy. While not all of the customers at Union Street Café will be so worried about the this, we would suggest heading to Paesan or Bocca di Lupo if you are looking for a meal that’s great from start to finish.

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