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RESTAURANT REVIEW: UNION STREET CAFE, SE1

Victoria Purcell experiences her first burrata – and proceeds to demolish most of the menu – at Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Cafe

How the time flies. Just over a year ago we were all getting excited over talk of David Beckham and Gordon Ramsay opening a restaurant together in south London. Sadly it didn’t work out and Gordon went it alone, but hey, he knows a thing or two about restaurants. And so became Union Street Cafe, which celebrated its first birthday in September.

The menu here is very Italian, and drops a fair bit of the native tongue. Fortunately, many of the staff are Italian too and know the dishes inside out, should you have any questions. We decided to take the advice of our waiter and order some arancini alla pizzailo – irresistible little fried balls of rice with mozzarella and tomato sauce – as an ‘aperitivi’, followed by a couple of antipasti dishes, a ‘primi’ pasta dish to share and a ‘secondi’ each.

The antipasti were so delicious I’d be tempted to approach the menu as a tapas kind of affair and skip the bigger courses altogether. We dissolved over the stracciatella d’Andria with aubergine, oregano and coffee. Stracciatella is a kind of soft curd cheese that is used to make burrata (a buttery cheese enclosed in a bag of mozzarella). Served with lashings of olive oil and a touch of smoky aubergine and rich coffee, it’s utterly delicious. We also tried the delicate courgette flower fritte, stuffed with ricotta and served with bresaola.

The primi, tagliolini with gurnard (a fleshy white fish) and bell peppers, bolstered with Calabrian ‘nduja (a spicy, spreadable pork sausage) was also very good, but I found the secondi far more exciting: first up, mackerel, pan-fried and spread with an olive paste on a bed of bell peppers and Welsh mussels, and then octopus ai ferri (boiled in a sealed bag then lightly grilled) with borlotti beans, datterini tomatoes, capers and ricotta. Fantastic.

It was quite the parade of fine, perfectly balanced textures and flavours, and dessert was certainly not necessary, but our waitress recommended the Budino al cioccolato and amaretti – a chocolate pudding that has the sheen of a panna cotta and is somehow both rich and light. I highly recommend it. And if all that isn’t reason enough to visit, the newly launched Sunday brunches with unlimited Prosecco surely is…

The Knowledge

Cost
A five-course lunch for two is around £90 (wine excluded)

Good for…
Fine Italian cuisine

What to eat…
The stracciatella d’Andria antipasti is really something

What to know…
Select a number of the smaller dishes and share for a real culinary treat

47-51 Great Suffolk Street (on the corner of Union Street) SE1 0BS; 020 7592 7977; gordonramsay.com

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