The South Bank has long been a great place for a hang, be you a chin-scratching movie buff, a teen skater, drama nut, or one of those peculiar people who actively enjoys the London Eye. And yet, when it comes to getting a decent feed, it always seemed lacking. Forza Wine, the Peckham rooftop wine bar that isn’t really a wine bar but a breezily impressive stealth restaurant, is here to change all that.
They’ve been given the run of the top floor of the National Theatre, a building that King Charles (back in his Prince Charles days) lovelessly compared to a nuclear power station. To a select few architecture pervs though, this 1960s concrete monolith always seemed dreadfully sophisticated and now London’s most-cultured car park is doubling up as the city’s most exciting new restaurant opening. There's a wonderful wraparound terrace, too, even though it's far too cold for that kind of thing at the moment. Rest assured, it'll be the only place to sip a flute of pét-nat when t-shirt weather returns.
Nothing is overly fancy, nothing is overly cheffy, but it’s all spotless.
As with their south London location, Forza Wine insists every dish on their menu is a ‘snack’. It remains an infuriating move, implying that you won’t get a full meal here however much you order. This is wrong; an £8 helping of weighty, golden cauliflower fritti nuggets proved so robust we couldn't finish a single portion between two, despite our best efforts. And for £140 you can have every last thing on the menu, which is surely pushing the boundaries of mere snackage, encompassing 13 dishes and four CustardoⓇs (more on this transcendental, copyrighted creaminess later).
Forza Wine describes its food as ‘Italian-ish’ and they’re spot on. Theirs is a bounty of fresh, and field-grown flavours spanning bitter leaves, lightly dashed with a muscular anchovy dressing, to lamb shoulder with salsa verde, pumpkin with pearl barley and burrata with beetroot. We ordered buttery broccoli dotted with salty pops of brown shrimp; a hearty pork ragu on a still-crunchy wedge of fried bread, dressed up with some gargantuan slices of chilli and pickled fennel; and a sublime, straightforward dish of clams, with rounds of courgettes, chickpeas and sherry. Nothing is overly fancy, nothing is overly cheffy, but it’s all spotless.
Strangely, the thing you think you’re coming for ends up playing second fiddle to the food. Which isn’t to say that drinks aren’t as delightful; cocktails are all around £9, and a grape daiquiri tastes like sour Haribo in the most grown-up way possible, while a fiery chilli rum Lucifer leaves the lips burning with a ribald hum, and natural wine abounds, starting at a not-so-bad £29 for a bottle of house red or white.
To finish, it’s CustardoⓇs all round. Forza Wine’s actually trademarked espresso and custard concoction remains iconic; a silky and deeply adult glass of magic which will make you pity the next affogato you see. It looks like the South Bank might finally have it all.
The vibe A super-mixed crowd – first dates, dads with their middle-aged kids, and the natty wine faithful – who want to eat, drink and be extremely merry.
The food Simple but extremely effective Italian-ish small (and big) plates.
The drink Classic and more inventive cocktails, a hearty wine list, and the infamous CustardoⓇ finally makes it to central London.
Time Out tip Forza Wine is open from midday until midnight, aka perfect if you’ve got the late-night munchies but can’t abide a limp sandwich from Waterloo station.