Right up our Street | Union Street Café, 47-51 Great Suffolk Street, London SE1 0BS
When Gordon Ramsay‘s Union Street Café popped up on our work doorstep we couldn’t believe our luck. There was a huge buzz about the opening, rumours of David Beckham being involved and miscommunication about it being in Borough Market when in fact it’s on a pretty average road in Southwark.
Somehow 18 months have passed and we’ve only just visited, we hadn’t heard amazing reports so didn’t shoot it to the top of our to visit list, although we’ve often admired the old warehouse building when walking past. Plus 10,000 bookings were made before the restaurant even opened so we thought we better let it all settle down a bit. But then a chef we respect a lot posted pictures (and words) of praise on Insta and we thought it’s about time that we gave it a go. Don’t be fooled by the name it is NOT a café. The daily changing menu is all Italian and Davide Degiovanni, the head chef hails from northern Italy, he most recently worked at Casta Diva restaurant in Moscow and Soho’s Locanda Locatelli
Eating at a restaurant that doesn’t involve any travelling after work whatsoever is such a novelty. Because of this, when we walked in we were pretty much the only ones there (it was just 6.15pm) so we headed downstairs to the bar for a very good pre-dinner cocktail. Decor in this basement is fairly standard, the exposed industrial ceiling had us wondering what and where all the pipes did and went.
We love the 70s style mix n match furniture, reminded me of my granny’s living room (although it didn’t look so cool back then). Low lighting, polished concrete walls and urban art completed the edgy yet somehow cosy lounge. My Sweet Godfather (£8.50) with rum, limoncello, raspberry and vanilla syrup and passionfruit was so incredibly tasty, my ideal kind of drink. Ade had a SE1 Pisco (£8.50) his decision heavily influenced by the maraschino cherry element, he’s a sucker for anything cherry related.
Back upstairs in the restaurant diners were starting to appear and a buzzy atmosphere brewing. The room is impressively grand with plush leather seating, parquet flooring, the work of the great Russell Sage studio. Our favourite touch being the elevated open kitchen with the chefs taking centre stage. The cocktail menu differs from the bar below, we tried a Union Spritz (£8.50) – an ‘upgrade’ of the Aperol Spritz with the addition of Bombay Gin and elderflower liquer. My The True Aperitif (£7.50) – a blend of vermouth and orange bitters. Pretty good value drinks for a Gordon Ramsay establishment we think, and really well made too.
After a bit of confusion that led to us being given the wrong menu (this OpenTable offer we think) we settled in with our drinks and some really great bread. Service is super helpful without being annoying, I needed all the help I could get once I saw the menu and realised that 90% is laden with cheese. I didn’t want to adjust anything as its annoying for the blog and annoying for the kitchen, plus there’s always the risk it’ll be forgotten and still turn up with the dreaded stuff on. Plus there were some cheeses I’d never heard of that didn’t even sound like they were cheese, like the Stracciatella d’Andria on broad beans, Sicilian tomatoes and mint that I had my eye on.
Instead I went for the Red apple, pears, gorgonzola, pecan nuts and four-year aged balsamic (£8). Yes, I am aware Gorgonzola is cheese but I was told it’d be easy to leave out. It wasn’t quite what I expected, the fruit was baked giving it a dessert-like texture and taste, I loved the pecans and the portion size was pretty generous for a starter (not that I was complaining). Ade fell in love with the Gratinated Italian eggs, smoked leeks and Parmesan (£7) the warm foamed cheese formed a deliciously soft and gooey meringue like texture. The runny egg yolks, fresh crisp leaks and crispy parmesan crumb combined to make the perfect cheese-lovers comfort food. Ade said it’s right up there with Big Easy‘s voodoo chicken wings for his ‘last meal’ starter.
For my main I managed to pinpoint a cheese-free dish on the menu – Hake, Parma ham, fennel, fresh peas and wild garlic purée (£21). I don’t normally choose fish in restaurants, preferring to go for meat dishes that I wouldn’t attempt at home. It was a lovely though dish though, the ham went to well with the fish, whilst the fennel and wild garlic broth at the bottom of the bowl provided some punchiness. A side order of turnip tops – Cime di rapa (£3) was a little disappointing, too bitter and wet.
Ox is never a photographic dish but God does it taste good. Ade’s Ox cheek, Liguarian chard, balsamic and ricotta (£22) was beautifully cooked, tender and robust. There was a rich depth of meatiness that can only be achieved by slow cooking. The Liguarian chard added some much needed bite (BTW, Liguria is a northern coastal region in Italy that is best known in culinary circles for being the birthplace of pesto sauce). The ricotta puree somehow held its own amongst the strong flavours from the balsamic sauce, add a creamy side of whipped Parmesan mash (£3) and Ade was elevated back to cheesy heaven.
We’re glad we held off on the offer of more bread at the start of our meal as the portions were bigger than we anticipated, a break was needed before we even contemplated dessert. I ordered the Torta del giorno (£7) which was a gorgeously soft iced-finger shaped orange cake with a citrus cream. Ade dilly dallied around for ages before deciding on the Yoghurt and lime semifreddo, chestnut honey and caramelised pecan (£8). He was expecting a dessert similar to the one he fell in love with in Noci, Pulia, but this was very different. That said, he loved the subtle citrus but felt the chestnut honey was far too strong and overbearing.
Just as it was almost time for us to head home the place was getting increasingly full, mostly full of people shmoozing clients, including a colleague of Ade’s who took a seat at the table next to us, I’m sure no one did any earwigging…
I wasn’t that surprised to hear that many colleagues hadn’t been to visit yet either, as soon as they hear the words ‘Gordon Ramsay’ everyone freaks out and assumes it’s way out of their budget when it’s really not. Plus they’ve started an express lunch menu where you get their daily special with a rocket salad and a soft drink for only £12. People spend more than that on a terrible meal at Pizza Express, but don’t get me started on that…
47-51 Great Suffolk Street,
London SE1 0BS
Telephone: 020 7592 7977
Book a table online with OpenTable
Restaurant: Monday – Friday: 12pm – 3pm & 6pm – 11pm
Saturday – 12pm – 4pm & 6pm – 10.30pm
Sunday – 12pm – 5pm*
Bar: Monday – Saturday: 5pm – midnight
Nearest station: Southwark (3 mins walk) London Bridge (15 mins walk) Borough
We ate as guests of the Union Street Café, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.