Friday 30 December 2011

Zucca: Fantastic Italian

This year I was charged with organising the Christmas lunch for my secretary at work - she asked for "not too posh Italian, somewhere I can have a nice bowl of pasta".  Within minutes I had a shortlist:  Boca de Lupo (still on my to-do-list after all this time), L'Anima, Time Out's London Italian of the year, and Zucca, one of my favourite places in London.  I put the options on the table - Zucca came back as the unanimous favourite.

And so on the last Wednesday before Christmas at 1pm sharp the five of us trooped out of the office and off to Zucca.  Now for a Christmas lunch, Zucca was not very Christmassy - no crackers or paper hats here (a blessing if you ask me!) - but the food is so consistently good I was sure all would be okay.  In fact I was relying on the food being a bit better than okay given that we had a couple of devoted foodies in our midst.

Zucca is at the far end of Bermondsey Street, an area well worth investigating even if you can't manage to get a reservation at Zucca given the excellent food on offer at both Pizarro and Jose and the great drinks at The Woolpack and the Hide!  Inside it is all clean lines with large windows and a kitchen open to the dining room.  The menu (which is made up of the type of food you find in good local restaurants throughout Italy (no pizza or gloopy pasta carbonara here!)) changes daily, although the zucca friti (pumpkin fritters) and veal chop seem to be regulars.

We had a glass of prosecco to start (it is the festive season after all!) and were provided with a bowl of various forms of bread along with a couple of slices of tortilla.  This is one of my favourite parts of any meal at Zucca as the bread comes with their own-brand olive oil - it has a wonderfully grassy flavour, this is probably my favourite olive oil -right up there the oil at Osteria Francescana.

I had the sea bass carpaccio with olive oil and finely diced sweet red peppers and chili.  The thinly sliced fish was absolutely delicious and was complemented well by the sweetness and crunch from the peppers.  A couple of the other diners started with the zucca friti which  also seemed to go down well.

For main, I went for the veal chop.  I had seen this coming out of the kitchen on previous visits but had always been sidetracked by other daily specials, safe in the knowledge that it would be there next time I visited.  This time I was not so distracted.  The wonderfully chargrilled veal chop was tender and juicy, served on top of nicely wilted spinach.  Simple, brilliant.

Being not much of a dessert fan I went for the cheese (served with delicious chutney and fruit bread) for afters, but I have to say that, when the pannacotta and poached pear came out, it seemed as though I had made a mistake.  This looked, and apparently tasted, very good indeed.

I cannot recommend Zucca enough.  The restaurant is welcoming and the food is both consistently good and more interesting than most other Italian restaurants in London.  
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