I like a restaurant with plenty of veg. It shows confidence. And, in the case of this Stoney Street newbie, tomato-throwing distance from Borough Market, it’s apt, because once upon a time, it was owned by a greengrocer, Arthur Hooper.
Not that you should expect a cor blimey guv’nor, what a load of ol’ cobblers, give us a lady (Godiva – fiver) kind of a place. The short menu – half of which is veggie – is modern Euro with a distinctly Italian accent. It’s not fussy, but looks beautiful and tastes magnifico.
There was a shimmering beef carpaccio: interlacing tiles of meat anointed with teeny blobs of fresh salsa verde and a fragrant olive oil. I adored the clams: juicy little shellfish nuggets and thin rounds of courgette over warm, n’duja-spiked juices. When the shells had all been set to one side, we picked up the serving spoon and ate the rest like soup. You’d have done the same.
Then there was pasta. It takes balls to serve pasta when you’re around the corner from wheat-maestros Padella, but they’ve done it anyway. And it’s ace. Paccheri (large tubes) had a good bite plus an intense, winey beef ragu. A veggie pasta – ribbons of perfect pappardelle with a creamy porcini and girolles sauce – was equally classic, equally intense.
And oh yes, is there time to talk about that veg? It’s gorgeous. Think butter beans in a fresh tomato sauce, with just a hint of harissa. On top, pieces of charred tenderstem broccoli. And shaved, salted ricotta, for creaminess. Even a simple plate of greens flecked with chilli and crunchy batons of chard was a beaut.
The staff are on their game. Refreshingly, they don’t send out all the plates at once, but actually ask you how you’d like your meal to be paced. Gold star. They know their wine too, smoothly recommending from the thoughtfully curated list. I basically loved them.
The only thing I didn’t love was the room. Small and moody, it’s got a masculine boudoir vibe, with black padded seats and wine bottles lit from the walls. ‘Batman’s wine cellar,’ one pal commented. After dark, this may be fine, but if you’re going during daylight hours, ask to sit outside – where you can soak up the bustle of the market – or at least near the entrance. But do go.