No fuss, non-pretentious and simply great Italian food. These were my thoughts after dining at the casual yet elegant Zucca. Every dish was thoughtful and delicious, the antipasti were great for groups to share but don’t worry if you want to keep your delicous main to yourself (I certainly did with my white truffle risotto, no sharing please).
I should start to explore the east side more, with star restaurants like Jose, Zucca and Villiage East all on the busy yet narrow Bermondsey st, can you imagine how many other great restaurants are located in the area?
We arrived at the opening time of 6.30pm and the restaurant was full at 7, even the kitchen counter was filled at 7.30. I guess Zucca’s fame has already spread wide.
Our waitress brought us the complements of bread platter and biscotti shaped omelettes while we scanned the one pager menu that laid out today’s antipasti and mains of fish, meat and pasta. The clean menu structure made my favourite dishes easy to spot, which we ordered a few plus some of the day’s specials. Since truffle season is among us, I decided to join the masses and order myself a white truffle risotto while my dining partner quickly picked the pasta of the day.
My favourite one was the focaccia. Devilously oily but one of the most addictive breads.
A biscotti shaped omelette?!
Apologies for not remembering the name of this dish, it looked like a biscotti but with almonds replaced by vegetables and the biscuit part replaced by omelette. The soft omelette texture with dotted crunchy vegetables were tasty little bites that confirmed our high expectations of Zucca.
Zucca means pumpkin in Italian, which explains the pumpkin shaped ceiling lights and these pumpkin chips. Instead of the dense and chunky texture of potato chips , these pumpkin chips were light and tempura like. Extra soft to bite through with added moisture, though it shared the same addictive characteristics of potato chips, one after another, one after another.
Scanning our fellow guests of the evening, some clearly didn’t incorporate the concept of sharing antipasti. Watching someone eat a whole plate of Zucca fritti looked really odd.
This was one of the evening specials, which my dinner partner insisted to order. The beef was fresh, tender and very soft with a great seasoning that boosted a citrus flavour. Although the piece seemed large, it was tempting to grab one large piece and eat the lot (yum).
Smoked eel bruschetta
The casually thrown together dish wasn’t pretty to look at but it was our most tasty antipasti of the evening. The cabbage like vegetable (apologies again for not remember the name) had a crunchy texture with a citrusy kick, which was a simple yet refreshing salad, perfect for balancing the bomb like smoked eel. If Zucca was experimenting on how intensely one can smoke an eel, consider this accomplished. It was so smoky I could barely taste whether it was eel or mackerel, though strong, a lot of thought process has gone into balancing it. The bruschetta and the citrusy salad had offset the smoked eel so perfectly to produce a dish that’s balanced and refreshing while leaving our palates sizzling with smokiness.
Agnolotti is a form of Ravioli, typical of the Piedmont region. Although I’m not a fan of venison as pasta filling, each bite of this dish had convinced me otherwise. Instead of the typical chewy texture from venison, this finely minced filling was soft, almost smooth and full of meaty flavours.
White truffle risotto
Everything about this dish was perfect, the texture of the rice, the delicate aromas from the white truffle and the creamy consistency. I can imagine someone stiring these till they are perfectly done. With a generous splash of white truffle on top, it was an elegant, balanced yet rich risotto. One that I’ll remember for years to come.
Chocolate and hazelnut tart
I imagined a small rounded tart when I ordered this dessert, but this was more like a large pie. Taste wise, it was creamy, not too dense and rich in dark chocolate. On the downside, all the hazelnuts seemed to have pilled to the edge of the tart rather than evenly distributed throughout. If you eat the tip of this tart, you won’t find many hazelnuts compared a spoonful towards the crust of the tart.
Lemon and sugar cake
To adhere to its ‘sugar cake’ name, I literately tasted splashes of grainy caster sugar periodically throughout eating this cake, like someone had chucked a large spoonful of sugar in the cake after baking it. Also, the texture was too dry even with the cream.
Overall, I loved Zucca’s food, it hosted some of the most delicious Italian dishes I’ve tried in London. Strong points came from the antipasti and mains, which were spot on if not beyond my expectations. My risotto was divine, the Zucca fritti was addictive and the bombingly smoky eel bruschetta was surprisingly refreshing. On the downside, desserts were very average which was a disappointing way to end a great meal. Dinner for two came to £70, which was a little pricy but considering how delicious each dish was, I’d definitely re-visit Zucca soon.