Italian is one of those cuisines people are generally sceptical of outside of Italy. More often than not, this scepticism is well founded: there’s nothing worse than coming away from a ristorante thinking you could have boiled up some spaghetti at home, chucked on a supermarket own brand pasta sauce and had a better experience. Grr.
Fear not Hungry Nomads, this negative introduction brought on by too many mediocre margherita pizzas is simply to pave way for the vibrancy and winsomeness of Zucca, both in terms of food and decor. Deliciously underrated, Zucca is set on Bermondsey Street, currently the trendiest street in London, particularly if you are a food fiend intent on shirking the pomposity found in city eateries elsewhere. Zucca’s frontage is almost identical to Pizarro further down the road, all industrial geometry and wall sized windows. Inside, nearly everything is white, from the chairs to the white lights. In most other settings this would appear minimalist and clinical; at Zucca it’s all graceful homeliness. A real interior triumph, and that’s before you even get to the food.
If anything is minimalist about Zucca, it’s the menu. This is not a bad thing, but indicative of a chef who chooses ingredients wisely and concentrates on doing a few dishes well. Furthermore, there are only two pasta dishes in sight on this week’s menu. Another thumbs up: an indicator that this is definitely going to be a far cry from aforementioned afflictions. When it does arrive from the open fronted kitchen, the food is just as good Italian should be – bursting with freshness and flavour with an understated elegance. There are some parts that could do with improving: our roast potatoes look a bit forlorn on a side plate for example, but this is a presentational issue only.
The fact is, we would go back time and again for an unhurried meal steeped with proper Italian flavours.
Zucca: The Hungry Nomad verdict
Best bit: The staff bursting with sincerity about the food from their kitchen and the added extras they can’t wait to throw in. This time it was a crostini topped with mashed chick peas and chilli. Oh, and that Zucca olive oil – you’ll definitely be buying some to take home with you.
Worst bit: The facilities, although not pivotal to a good meal, are an important part of any dining experience. At Zucca you only have the option of using the male/female bathroom or the male bathroom. We’re no die-hard feminists, but surely women have earned the right to have their own dedicated facilities!
Our ideal menu for two:
Burrata (oh so creamy), beetroot and capers – £5.95
Spaghetti with chilli, prawns and tomato – £10
Grilled swordfish with caponata – £15.95
Veal chop with spinach and lemon – £16.95
Side of roast potatoes – £4.25
Chocolate and nut tart x 2 – £6 each
A bottle of Cheremi wine – £32
TOTAL: £97.10, plus service
The Hungry Nomad score: 4 out of 5