I spent a large part of the summer working in the Southwark area. The office was right next door to a very noisy building site (well, I suppose there aren’t any other kind) which I soon discovered was going to be the latest restaurant in the Gordon Ramsay stable, the Union Street Cafe. The infernal banging did make some days at work a little unpleasant but it was very interesting to see the restaurant emerge from its shell.
Rumour had it that David Beckham was involved and when online booking opened a week before launch, the internet went bonkers. Very shortly afterwards it appeared he’d never had anything to do with it…all very strange and quite intriguing that people would be more interested in going to a restaurant just because Beckham was involved.
I have met Gordon Ramsay once and found him to be very charming, so I don’t start from a “I’m going to hate this restaurant because Gordon’s involved” perspective, which a surprising amount of people do. And having suffered the construction pain on pretty much a daily basis, I was keen to give Union Street a go.
From the moment I walked in, I loved it. The room is spacious and very urban with plenty of concrete and metal. Tables are well spaced (I hate cramped restaurants) and the menu interesting. The focus is on seasonal ingredients, a Mediterranean feel with emphasis on Italian artisan producers.
The artichokes were served warm which was unexpected and lovely, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil they were zesty and succulent.
The mozzarella came wrapped in speck and served with that great Sicillian dish, caponata. A wonderfully warming and comforting dish.
The lamb neck was rich and melt-in-the-mouth and served with beautifully rich and smooth polenta. Note to self, must make polenta at home, it’s so delicious.
The octopus was boiled and then grilled and served with beans and chorizo. A vibrant and tasty dish.
Overall, a lovely experience and one I certainly wouldn’t mind repeating. Okay, Union Street Cafe is in a slightly out-of-the-way area and it’s a bit different, with several people serving you instead of a dedicated waiter and it is possibly a little too self-consciously trendy.
I read two reviews, one by Camilla Long in the Sunday Times where she slagged off everything about the restaurant and more: the area, the room, the furniture, Beckham, Ramsay, the staff, the food, the toilets, her friend, the booking system, the other customers, the Premier Inn, Lenny Henry, the menu…what can I say, she must have been having a very bad day! Marina O’Loughlin in the Guardian, on the other hand, begrudgingly admitted to liking it, having forced herself past her Ramsay prejudices! Who’d be a food critic? It seems like you have too many issues to deal with! I really liked the place, hey, I even liked the flowers…
Union Street Cafe is at 47-51 Great Suffolk Street