Qvintessenza Restaurant, London Bridge – Review

Peter Morrell is reminded of a trip to the Veneto region of Italy at this new “eno-gourmetteria”

I was in the Veneto region of Italy last year primarily to look at the villas Andreas Palladio had designed. They were built as summer residences for Venetian nobility who ate and drank to their heart’s content during the warmest part of the year. The area is known as the ‘Garden of Venice’ and this is where the food is still grown for the city and it’s also the home of Prosecco.

My villa viewing days in Veneto last year were always concluded with an excellent dinner which gave me an appreciation of the quality of the cuisine available in the region.

The region’s capital is Treviso (where Tiramisu was invented), about 30 minutes north of Venice by train. One of Treviso’s most popular restaurants is Qvintessenza, it’s situated on Via Sant’Agostino, a short walk from the Cathedral. I didn’t make it to Qvintessenza during my visit so was excited to hear that they had opened a branch in London.

Qvintessenza is located on the edge of that ever expanding area of entertainment venues to the south of London Bridge and my wife and I dined there recently. The restaurant itself has a wide frontage with floor to ceiling windows and has been stylishly decorated. Rather than just a place to eat it is full-blown “eno-gourmetteria” offering genuine Italy products with designations of origin.

At one end of the dining space is bar area complete with high stools and currently serving ‘Birrone’ an award-winning unpasteurised and additive-free craft beer from Isola Vicentina, just outside Venice. To the side of the dining room is a tasting area, surrounded by shelves Prosecco and wines procured by owner Alessandro Zavarise on his travels.

Settling in to a window seat we sipped on a quality prosecco with good fruity flavours from an impressive list and enjoyed an aperitivo of bruschetta with proscuitto, and goat’s cheese. It was a good start with very fresh and flavourful ingredients and good presentation.

The menu is quite straightforward with antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti of meat and fish, sourdough pizzas and desserts. The antipasti listed some really interesting options like Mozzarella di Bufala Affumicata a Legna e Caponata, wood smoked mozzarella and aubergine. My wife chose the Roast Beef all’Inglese, sliced roast beef served cold, it was delicious, the meat was beautifully tender with lots of taste.

I selected the Bollito Misto di Pesce, which literally translates as a rather unprepossessing mixed boiled fish. When the dish arrived it was superb. There were prawns, baby octopus in a sauce, sliced full sized octopus, a scallop and cod fish pate. My memories of Veneto came flooding back, this was simple food using quality ingredients which were allowed to show their full natural flavours.

We skipped the primi piatti although were tempted by the fresh truffle tagliolini with hare ragù and porcini mushrooms risotto. The secondi piatti had equally appealing choices like veal, lamb and a whole chicken. We finally both chose fish, my wife had the Branzino al Forno con Patate e Olive Taggiasche – roasted sea bass with crispy potatoes and taggiasche olives, and aubergine. The fish was beautifully perfumed, moist and juicy.

My Frittura Mista di Pesce – a selection of fried king prawns, squid, sardines and vegetables was another winner, sea fresh fish sat under a nest of spiralised, deep fried carrots and courgettes. The seafood was in an almost imperceptibly light batter, highly enjoyable.

The wine list was unashamedly Italian, and had a lot of wines not normally found on a menu. Our pairing for the evening was the Azienda Agnoletti Incrocio Manzoni Bianco 2014 from the IGT area of Colli Trevigiani. This wine had some intriguing aromas of asparagus and herbs in the bouquet. On the palate it had pear flavours and a hint of minerality. A buttery texture was muted by slight acidity which gave it a clean, crisp finish.

The desserts like, Pannacotta, Italian cheeses and of course Tiramisu were all tempting but the size of the first two courses had made us almost full. Our final indulgence was a scoop each of vanilla and mint/chocolate home-made gelato shared with two spoons. This was matched with a glass of Ramandolo DOCG 2004 sweet wine. This luscious wine was fragrant on the nose with honeyed herbal notes in the mouth and had a persistent finish.

This had been an excellent dining experience, the service throughout the meal was attentive and I was pleased to be able to introduce my wife to the quality and style of the food from the Veneto region.

304 Borough High Street
London SE1 1JJ