Dec 16 2013

Union Street Café


Union Street Café is an Italian restaurant owned by Gordon Ramsey in his expanding empire of restaurants. His friend David Beckham for a long time was rumoured to be co-investing with him in this restaurant but in the end, for some reason, did not. This place has been trying to open up for many years now, I first read about it a few years ago, but it finally did open at the end of last year. The restaurant is located in south London, close to Southwark tube station. I am actually so surprised how hip and trendy this area is, as when I was studying nearby almost 10 years ago, this place had almost no restaurants, and now there is so much going on around here.
The restaurant serves Italian food from different regions and the menu changes frequently. The main chef is Davide Degiovanni, clearly Italian (comes from Norhern Italy). I came here for dinner with my boyfriend as well as his two friends, Kaye and Colm. We had tried to come here before on a different night and the only reservation we could get, even though we booked a few weeks before, was at 6pm and no later, showing that this restaurant was popular since the opening. In the end we came here on a Monday evening at 6pm and the place was full. The décor is sort of simple yet elegant with blue leather sofas and dark wooden tables and chairs, and there is an open style kitchen on one side of the room (so many restaurants do these open kitchens these days), and I was sitting close to this kitchen and could watch the chefs prepare their dishes.
The menu was almost unreadable. It was done in this trendy way that every second word was Italian and unless you are Italian, you would not understand it and would need the waiters help (I think I am quite modern and do understand Italian foreign food terms, like dolci, bruschetta, vitello, burrata, but even here I could not understand many of the terms – would you know what this is? “rigatoni all’vovo, salsiccia di vitello & caciocavallo”, makes you feel stupid if you don’t know what is on the menu!). It was actually quite frustrating for us as the waiter had to stay with us for about 10 minutes and go through every dish and translate. Having said that once I knew what was on the menu, I did like it, wanted to have so many things from it and could not decide what to have. The menu was divided into 7 sections, “aperativi” (small snacks), “antipasti”, “primi” (pasta/ risotto), “secondi” (meat/ fish main courses), “contorni” (sides), “formaggi” (cheese) and “dolci” (deserts). You could either order things for yourself or share dishes. Kaye was pregnant so she ordered a starter and a main course for herself and the rest of us shared dishes, which Kaye could not really have as they contained raw fish and cheese (even though the waiter said all their cheese is pasteurized and ok for a pregnant lady). The starters range from £8 to £12 and the main courses from £13 (pasta) to £24 (meat).
The bread we go before our meal was quite average, it was not amazing artisan bread, but nevertheless was quite nice to eat it with the olive oil and balsamico. My boyfriend, Colm and I shared one of the “aperativi”, “arancini” which was fried risotto balls, as well as three dishes from the “antipasti” section – “crudo di mackarel, salsa verde  & citrus”, “Fassona beef, Jerusalem artichokes & 24 month parmesan’ and “Sardinian artichokes, taggiasche olives & pecorino” – a well as one of the “primi” pasta courses “rigatoni all’vovo, salsiccia di vitello & caciocavallo” (pasta with veal sausage and cheese). Kaye ordered the artichoke salad for her. The thing that I have to say about all the food and not just about the starters is that the flavor/ taste of most of rhe dishes was very strong. I have always said that I like powerful flavours and food, but here it was almost too overwhelming how strong every dish tasted, mainly because of the different types of cheese added to so many of the dishes. The beef with cheese (sort of like beef carpaccio just beef was minced not cut into slices) was very strong in flavour, stronger than an average beef carpaccio. The same can be said about the artichoke salad and the pecorino cheese was so strong it overwhelmed the whole dish. Mackerel with salsa verde was an interesting dish as usually sea bream or sea bass or yellowtail is served like this and mackarel is a much stronger tasting fish and once again it was sort of interesting but too strong and also I was not crazy about the overall flavour together. The mackarel was the dish that all of us enjoyed the least. And pasta was the dish that we enjoyed the most, delicious with the veal sausage.
We also decided to share the main courses (although the waiter at first insisted we could not do it as there was not enough space on the table to put the plates of the dishes and then plates for us to share everything, although in the end he changed his mind and did let us share and somehow managed to squeeze everything in). We ordered “polpo, braised chickpeas, calabrian nduja” (octopus with chickpeas and spicy sausage), “saltimbuco di vitello, marsala & fried zucchini” (veal topped with prosciutto and fried zucchini) and “anatra selvatica, Jerusalem artichokes, funghi & chianti” (wild duck with artichokes, mushrooms and wine). We also ordered a side of “Italian mixed leaves” and Kayechose “orata, lentils, parma ham and cavolo nero” (sea bream with lentils, parma ham and cabbage) as her main course. My boyfriend loved the octopus, it was delicious and nicely accompanied with the chickpeas and the spicy sausage. Colm seemed to like the most the veal topped with prosciutto and the prosciutto made the veal quite salty and once again the flavour was very strong. I very much enjoyed the fried zucchini that came with the veal as I like that sort of thing, although they were a bit too thin and so too much covered in batter for my liking. The duck was nicely cooked pink. Kaye also very much enjoyed her fish.
I very much enjoyed the varied dessert menu as well and it featured things I had not seen before. Colm chose to have an ”affogato” which was an ice cream covered with coffee (the waiter nicely poured the coffee over) and also had a shot of amaretto, I tried some and it was very tasty. My boyfriend and Kaye went for the “semifredo, caramelized nuts & salsa al cioccolato” (semifredo is a semi-frozen dessert, sort of an ice-cream that also had some moose which makes it softer). The semifredo was sooooo delicious and especially with the nuts and the chocolate sauce. I said I did not want any desert and ended up eating a lot of it.
If you are bored with plain food, this place is for you. Most of the dishes have very strong, powerful flavour and the choice of different Italian dishes on the menu from various regions is impressive. This Italian food is just a bit more interesting than in your average Italian restaurant.
Date: 16/ 12/ 13
Location: Southwark
Price for 4 people with some alcohol: £274.54

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Union Street Café
47-51 Great Suffolk Street SE1 0BS
United Kingdom
Union Street Café Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3.5