Bar Douro, Flat Iron Square

Thanks to chefs like Nuno Mendes, Portuguese food is now getting an opportunity to shine, with eateries showcasing this much forgotten cuisine all over London. Bar Douro is the latest noteworthy Portuguese restaurant to open, finding a cosy home in the Flat Iron Square foodie hub.

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I went along with a fellow food-obsessed friend to try out their speciality dishes. The restaurant is relaxed and atmospheric, with bar seats offering a view of the small kitchen. The blue and white patterned tiles reminded me instantly of days wandering round Lisbon’s pretty streets. Owner Max Graham was previously running supper clubs around London with Head Chef Tiago Santos. Max’s family have been creating Churchill’s Port in the Douro area of Portugal for centuries and his passion for Portuguese wine is evident from the thoughtful wine list.

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We were treated to a feast of the best dishes from the menu, including delicacies like Croquetes de Alheira and Octopus with sweet potato. The food was vibrant both in flavour and presentation. I loved the Chanfana rolls, bite-sized pieces of milk-fed lamb with a deliciously fragrant herb sauce. For something a little more decadent try the Roast suckling pig with homemade crisps, which is prepared and cooked to perfection with caramelised baby carrots and fresh orange. Not all the dishes worked… Bacalhau a Bras (Salted cod with scrambled eggs and chips) was bland and uninteresting, and sadly our Octopus tenticle arrived so charred it overwhelmed the subtle flavour of the seafood.

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I’ve never known much about Portuguese desserts, partly because I’m usually too full from main course to make it that far down the menu. At Bar Douro we were presented with three sweet plates, so I had a quick, and tasty lesson in this country’s pastry traditions. A delicate Abade de Priscos (Portuguese Bacon Pudding) was paired with wonderfully contrasting citrus sorbet and fresh orange. The second dessert, Bar de camelo was very sweet but delicious, made from condensed milk and topped with ice-cream and a shard of chocolate. And don’t leave without trying the fresh-out-the-oven Pastel de nata with cinnamon ice-cream, which works very well with a glass of the Churchill’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port.

It is lovely to see the arrival of new food ventures in South London and Bar Douro does a wonderful job of showcasing the best of Portuguese food and wine.

More information and book a table at Bar Douro here.

Mercato Metropolitano

Mercato Metropolitano is a vibrant new market in Elephant & Castle which celebrates Italian food and drink. Housed in a disused paper factory, this covered market covers 45,000 ft, with brilliant Italian producers and chefs selling regional delights.

Mercato Metropolitano

Choose from irresistable pizzas at ‘Pizza Napoletana’, fresh handmade pasta from ‘Tortellino’, or indulge with an ice-cream from Gelateria Badiani, Florence’s award-winning gelato makers. Within the market you can find everything from artisan coffee roasters to butchers, a juice bar, a bakery and a decadent mozzarella bar.

Also onsite is Prezzemolo e vitale, a family-run Palermo supermarket who sell every Italian ingredient you could ever hope for, including premium cured meats, cheeses, and a wonderful range of olive oils. The founders hope this will become a hub for locals and professionals working nearby, within the complex there is a boxing gym and a coworking music space.

As well as providing delicious food, MM hope to educate and raise awareness of food sustainability, and will be hosting events and live demonstrations in the coming months.

As a South Londoner I couldn’t be happier to have this tasty new market on my doorstep.

Find Mercato Metropolitano at: Borough Triangle, Newington Causeway, SE1.

More information here:

Naughty Piglets, Brixton

Naughty Piglets is the kind of neighbourhood eatery you move flat to be nearer. The restaurant was set up by husband and wife team, Joe and Margaux Sharratt, in March 2016 who aim to provide visitors with a considered natural wine list and a frequently changing seasonal menu, based around charcoal grilled recipes. Needless to say the 34-cover venue is always packed, with locals, and those travelling from other areas of London to try out this winning combination.

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Inside the restaurant is modest but stylish, with eight bar seats which boast a kitchen view, for those who want to be closer to the action! We sat here and enjoyed observing the restaurant as a busy Friday evening unfolded. I let Margaux choose our wine, with sommelier experience from some of London’s most successful culinary spots I figured she would pick better than me. We tried a glass of two whites, a 2013 ‘La Rue aux Loups’ Chenin Blanc and the very unique 2014 Cheverny Tradition, from Domaine de Montcy. Both wonderfully refreshing and satisfying at the same time.

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The menu is short and sweet with options to suit every palate. Locals who visit often can relish different dishes each week as the recipes change with the produce available and the seasonality of ingredients. Roast Pumpkin with Goat’s Cheese and Parma Ham was a rustic dish of subtly complementing Autumn flavours, smokey chunks of fleshy pumpkin with salty ham and cheese. I can’t miss out on burrata if I see it on a menu, it is difficult to go wrong with a dollop of the creamiest soft cheese, but the version Joe has created is particularly lavish, served on a bed of perfectly seasoned caponata.

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From the meat and fish options we chose Scallops with Cauliflower and XO sauce, Beef Rump with bon marrow toast, shallots & watercress and BBQ pork belly with sesame and Korean spices, a favourite which has been on the menu since opening in March. Scallops were delicate and succulent paired with silky cauliflower puree and a hint of citrusy yuzu which cut through the richness of the dish. I loved the simple, slick presentation of the pork, but found the whole dish too salty, even with assortment of green vegetables. Silence fell over the table as we devoured the beef, an utterly delicious plate of wholesome British flavours, compiled in an elegantly French way.

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There were two decadent puddings to choose from, naturally we ordered one of each. Chocolate mousse with salted caramel and hazelnuts was like a grown-up Mars bar deconstructed on the plate, with oozing dangerously sweet caramel sauce and the smoothest mousse you could imagine. Baked vanilla cheesecake with figs was blissfully soft, topped with contrasting crunchy puffed rice and served with ruby red fig segments.

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I’m lucky enough to only be a short bus ride away from Naughty Piglets, and I can’t wait to spend more Friday evenings here, unwinding with a good glass of wine and a lot of completely delicious food.

More information and book a table at Naughty Piglets here.