This week I was invited to a party at the café to celebrate a new era for the venue, as Cinzia Ghighoni, acclaimed chef formerly of Zucca, Duck Soup and Angela Hartnett takes over the culinary reins. I invited my friend Jade along with me promising her great food and wine, and with the re-launched wine menu, the promise was kept.
When we arrived at around 7pm the place was buzzing with people, a group of food journalists, home economists, bloggers and wine experts, all keen to try out the new style. We were greeted with a glass of Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV, I’m no wine expert I’m afraid, but this was a gorgeous glass of white sparkling wine, and went down a little quickly with Jade and myself – we are partial to the odd glass of fizz and allowed the friendly waiting staff to re-fill our glasses quite rapidly.
Our first bite was a piece of the most gorgeous focaccia, moist and salty, an opening of what was to come. The next small plate was some Baccala Mantecato with polenta crisps. I’d never heard of this dish before, but enjoyed it immensely - it had a creamy fishy taste and reminded me of a garlicky tarramasalata, lovely. The polenta crisps were also good and we’d soon eaten all of these with some of the fishy dip remaining – we found ourselves heading over to the front of the place, to get more of the focaccia to mop up the rest of the Baccala Mantecato – this was right in front of the open-kitchen and we remained there for most of the rest of the evening as it gave us the perfect view of the busy and efficient chef team preparing the rest of the dishes. I’ve since learned that Baccala Mantecato is a salt cod concoction, and one that I hope to try again.
The next dish was a Friggitelli (a mild, Italian green pepper) with ricotta, marjoram and breadcrumbs, this actually reminded me of how simplistic good Italian food is. It was lovely, with a lemony flavour to the ricotta, it was beautiful in its simplicity, the toasted breadcrumbs gave a little crunch to the otherwise creamy texture and Jade and I frankly inhaled this dish – another good one.
We then had a seafood plate of octopus with the most flavoursome and delicious aubergines I’ve ever tried. Aubergines are such a great sponge of herbs and spices and these were marinated, moist and full of fresh Italian flavours, absolutely fantastic. The octopus was good too, but we could have enjoyed the aubergines alone. This was served with a glass of Prieuré de Montézargues Rosé 2011 which matched really well with the delicate flavours of the fish and the aubergine.
Our Italian pudding was a Passion Fruit Tart, which had a light pastry casing and was beautiful in appearance and taste with a light and fruity cream filling. This was served with my favourite wine of the evening – a dessert wine: Château Bouscassé ''Larmes Célestes 2010. Now at this point Jade and I were getting a mini wine education from the lovely Denise otherwise known as The Wine Sleuth. As I’ve said I can’t declare to be a wine connoisseur but I did really enjoy this sweet and fruity dessert wine, and will be investing in a bottle for home consumption when I have people round for dinner as it was the perfect finale to a fabulous evening of great food and wine.
Shaun Alpine-Crabtree is the founder of the restaurant and has gained a 2 star award from The Sustainable Restaurant Association too for spearheading the venue’s collaboration with the homeless charity St Mungos, with whom, the restaurant work with on their herbs. It was these fantastic herbs that made up the most unusual ‘goody bag’ I’ve ever received, a batch of these herbs in a wooden box.
It was a great evening and now that I know the venue play live Jazz on a Saturday evening I may venture there in the evening as well as for the go-to for visits when in Southwark Street. The new Italian direction looks set to take The Table Café onto the next stage in an already splendid food journey.