Cantina del Ponte, 36c Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YE
Cantina del Ponte is on my old work’s stomping ground – Shad Thames, which boasts one of the best views in London, that of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It’s right next door to Le Pont de la Tour, the only restaurant I’ve not visited on Butler’s Wharf, my bosses would swan off there at lunchtime and my work colleagues and I would slum it at Ask pizza, if we were lucky. It still looks the same ten years on and since the height of its popularity in the late 90s.
We took the kids in the school holidays, after an afternoon in the Launch Pad at the Science Museum with a stinking cold I was longing for a large glass of red and a hearty bowl of pasta.
When we arrived it was pretty quiet, but then it was only 6.30. We wanted to sit outside and admire the view, and also so we didn’t have to worry so much about the kids behaving but it was a bit too nippy.
It’s not very often we take the kids to ‘posh’ restaurants where there’s nothing for them to do, no crayons or colouring in, just boring adult conversation. We devised a game of I Spy to keep them occupied, it didn’t really work though. The waiting staff were great with the kids and were very patient and helpful, especially as it took at least 15 minutes for Little Miss Fussy Eater to order!
Having a bad cold I needed comfort food and red wine, of course. There was an extensive wine list so we’d recommend it to wine lovers, I had the Syrah, Mandrarossa, Sicily, 2009 and ordered the marinated salmon & potato fish cake, green salad with cherry vinegar fish cake to start, which turned out more like a mini fish pie. This worried me slightly as am not a fish pie fan but I really enjoyed it, comfort in a pot. Ade and Oliver shared the deep-fried buffalo mozzarella with anchovies and tomato terrine, the cheese was of excellent quality and the terrine tasted of sweet Baby San Marzano Tomatoes but the anchovy was almost missed.
Charlotte, 7, is the world’s fussiest eater, which we are trying to change, so she just had the homemade bread selection, although we all tucked into it as she also has the world’s smallest belly. Loved the crispy flatbread and the cute little wooden box and the olive oil was wonderful.
I had been advised to eat chilli and garlic for my cold so I had the spaghetti with fresh chilli, garlic & extra virgin olive oil, it’s been a long time since I ordered such a simple dish. It did the trick, fresh, not too hot, huge chunks of garlic, it is still one of my best-loved dishes. Ade ordered something that he wouldn’t usually order, the spaghetti with fresh seafood, prawn & baby octopus, chilli & tomato, it was absolutely huge, and jam-packed with mussels. He said it had too many baby octopuses (or is that octopi or octopodes, I’m not all that good with plurals) and not enough prawn(s). I don’t know how, but he managed to eat almost all of it and said he’d definitely order it again. Charlotte said the baby octopus looked like Squidward Tentacles from Spongebob Squarepants… I thought she’d get upset till she started chanting ‘eat the head, eat the head’ Strange girl!
Oliver, 9 1/2, had the fried fresh squid with mayonnaise and the rocket & parmesan salad (he’s the least fussy child I know and will eat almost anything, the total opposite to his sister). The coating was a bit on the soft side, no real texture or bite to it but the quality of the squid was excellent. The rocket salad was polished off too – one of his 5-a-day, tick!
Charlotte ordered the Homemade lasagne, meat ragu, tomato sauce & béchamel, it wasn’t on the children’s menu. I say children’s menu, it’s more a list of three things they can have a child’s portion of, so we improvised. I thought she’d freak out as there was no layer of pasta on top, it was like an upside down lasagne but she seemed to enjoy it and ate 3/4 of it – believe me that’s good (we may have to call in Supernanny about this girl).
Dessert time is the kid’s favourite time. I ended the evening with an Absolut raspberry sensation cocktail which went perfectly with my dessert, panna cotta with fresh berries, not sure if that was a subconscious decision. It was gorgeous and there were plenty of excellent quality berries alongside it and a refreshing coulis. It made a pleasant change to have a substantial amount of the coulis. Ade had the warm cherry tart & pistachio ice cream, a little warm cherry pie topped with pistachio ice cream, the flavours went perfectly and the pastry case was light and crumbly (if just a little burnt around the crust).
Oliver opted for the almond semi freddo & caramel sauce and he loved the sweet, coated nuts. Charlotte opted for her usual – vanilla ice cream (she left the scoop of chocolate) . Everything was good value, great sized portions, fresh excellent quality ingredients and of course, a superb location. As their website says, Cantina del Ponte subscribes to the three R’s that make Italian food truly great: Rustic, Robust and Reasonably priced.
And just when the kids were starting to run our of things to play I Spy with, some gorgeous Italian biscuits arrived at the table, the perfect ending.
Cantina del Ponte
36c Shad Thames
City of London, London
020 7403 5403
Open Monday – Saturday 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm;
Sunday – 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm