fantastically fresh italian food down in bermondsey, near london bridge. this is my second visit to zucca, three years after my first one and boy has it lived up to my memories and hence inflated expectations.
I think of zucca as a very japanese italian restaurant, and I don’t mean that it is
some sort of confusion. rather, much of japanese cooking is about retaining and enhancing the flavours of fantastic ingredients, and showcasing lots of traditional styles and methods at a very high standard, and this is what zucca does.
the menu tends to be highly seasonal, so my list of dishes here might not be terribly useful to you since I was there about two weeks ago – but who knows? after ordering, we were served some awesomely fluffy focaccia and sourdough and that lauded green zucca olive oil. a complimentary dish of fresh vegetable slices also arrived – I believe the work of a mandoline – that were doused in the olive oil and sprinkled with flaky salt. the vegetables were sweet and fresh, and I thought it was a good starting point.
our starters were the seabass carpaccio, and the pumpkin fritters. the seabass was also doused in olive oil and had some finely chopped peppers on top, and were firm but tender. the zucca fritters I was particularly enamoured with, crisp and non-greasy seasoned tempura-style batter surrounding al-dente pieces of pumpkin. very nice.
the mains of roasted cod over a garlicky and auberginey ratatouille was good, but I don’t much like aubergine, nor garlic breath post-lunch, so I wish it had come with some greens instead. the grilled cuttlefish was served with lentils that I think were cooked in a octopus stock with pieces of octopus/cuttlefish, and was deliciously fresh. the lentils were really good, although they can be a tad stodgy at times.
on a whim I decided to get some greens, and they came in the form of sweet and tender runner beans topped with salt and chopped peanuts. such a simple but really good idea – I’m going to try and replicate this at home. some beans still had a string through them, but I’m just being picky here.
if they have pannacotta on the menu, you have to get it. I had it when I was here before, and on this occasion, the pannacotta was similarly yiledingly creamy and rich, and in fact so luscious that you wonder how it holds up that form. that’s some proper skill there.
also, for all you cooks out there who have noticed the concentration of vanilla seeds on the top of the pudding, I stared very hard at the pudding – while checking various mouthfuls, of course – and found out that the vanilla seeds are in a very thin but separate layer from the main pudding. I think they must first pour in a thin layer of pannacotta mixed with a high concentration of seeds and let that firm, before pouring the remaining pudding over. smart (and highly replicable).
our trip in france has put my partner off stone fruit for the near future, but even he agreed that the grilled apricots served alongside beany vanilla ice cream and amaretto syrup were delicious. the tangy sourness of the apricots offset the sweetness of the ice cream.
book far ahead, and grab a table here. I haven’t mentioned the highly reasonable prices at zucca, where mains are in the low tens and starters are below ten, which make it very easier to order too much. great food, a lovely open space, and very fresh food.