David Almond and Franz Ackermann, White Cube Bermondsey

When in London I like to spend Saturdays discovering new brunch menus and visiting art exhibitions. Bermondsey is an ideal area for weekend strolling, there are numerous cafés offering every cuisine and the prominent White Cube Gallery always offers something thought-provoking. With free entrance it is easy to drift in and wander through the tall clinically white interior.

Currently White Cube Bermondsey is exhibiting two very contrasting collections, both exhilarating in their own way. Darren Almond is an adventurous artist whose diverse work incorporates film, installation, sculpture and photography. In this instance he has produced an evocative series called ‘To Leave a Light Impression’, showcasing his mesmerizingly serene ‘Fullmoon’ series of photographs, depicting every continent in the light of the full moon, taken over a period of 13 years. The picture of Patagonia is particularly memorable, though each shot has its own eerily beautiful quality.

Franz Ackermann’s brightly coloured wall murals are completely different visually but just as impressive. The explosive spontaneity of the pieces is a joy to experience. The pictures are like complicated mind maps, vibrant layers of diverse materials. When you first encounter them the canvases look like a confused mess of neon hues. Walk closer, and a whole network of ideas becomes visible, to be interpreted differently by each viewer.

At the end of the art appreciation, pop into the shop to peruse the books. Next time you are wandering down Bermondsey Street in search of food, take ten minutes out to discover the imaginative world that the White Cube offers.

Continues until 13 April, more information here.

Menu del Dia at Pizarro, Bermondsey Street

Jose Pizarro is without a doubt my favourite Spanish Chef in London. His two restaurants at London Bridge make Bermondsey Street a firm foodie destination. When visiting the Caribbean, I was delighted to discover my passion for Jose’s food had travelled across the Atlantic. The manager of Cap Maison Hotel mentioned my positive reviews had inspired him to invite the great Jose Pizarro for a guest cheffing stint in summer 2013. With this in mind, I thought it was time to return to Bermondsey Street to sample Jose’s Menu del Dia.

I ate at Pizarro when it first opened late in 2011 and I’m very pleased to report that one year later the food is as good as ever. With an open kitchen, it is easy to observe the passionate enthusiasm obvious of all Jose’s staff. It seems to me that food is handled here in the way it should be, with care but not fussed about. On a busy Saturday lunchtime the kitchen was buzzing (we were sat very nearby), I was disappointed not to spot Jose amongst the team of chefs.

The Menu del Dia is a lunch menu, carefully designed by Jose using the freshest in season ingredients. This menu is ideal for weekday diners hoping for a reasonably priced lunch, at £18 for two courses and £20 for three. I was amazed with the variety the Saturday menu displays.

We chose the Iberico Ham to start and the Pork with roast potatoes from the daily menu. In my opinion a good Spanish meal should begin with a plate of glistening Iberico ham and as always the produce in Pizarro beats all rest. The finely sliced ham was divine, melt in the mouth and full of flavour. We ordered fresh bread to accompany the meat but I was sad to hear there was no aioli on offer. The pork, cooked medium rare, was irresistibly good. A lovely piece of meat simply but finely seasoned and served with lightly fried potatoes.

The main menu is filled with tempting treats. Our favourite was the Escalibada with Manchego cheese and herb oil, it is rare that a vegetarian dish exceeds my expectations but this truly did, a spectacular combination of flavours and textures. Prawns with pied de mouton mushrooms and chilli was a perfect starter, fresh and light dressed in a moreish spicy sauce. Neither of us took particularly to the beef cheeks with pumpkin puree, the beef was very rich and the pumpkin puree a little overpowering.

We opted for one cheese plate and one dessert to share. Coconut mousse with marinated banana and chocolate was an interesting mix of flavours, I loved the delicate and exotic mousse, but was unsure about the banana. Spanish cheeses are second to none, and at Pizarro you receive a generous selection of their best. Manchego outshone the others but all three chosen were delicious.

I am always amazed by the wine and sherries at Pizarro’s eateries. Our nervous waitress chose us wine to match our preferences and complement our food choices, and succeeded brilliantly at both. A lovely light wine, a robust red and a suitably sweet wine for pudding.

I don’t think I could ever get bored of Pizarro’s cooking and with the Menu del Dia this wonderful Spanish cuisine is affordable for all.


Antico, Bermondsey

Bermondsey Street is one of my favourite London roads and it seems to be getting even better with the arrival of lovely restaurants like Antico. This relaxed eatery serves up traditional and stylish Italian cuisine in a charming and comfortable setting. The restaurant is cheerful and chirpy with accommodating and thoughtful staff, the perfect place to meet with friends for an evening meal and catch up.

As I often do, I tweeted before my visit to Antico, and the online team advised me to try two things: the Aperol Spritz aperitif and the special venison ragu. Naturally I chose both… Aperol seems to be very on trend at the moment, the luminous marigold orange spirit is served in a large glass with prosecco and a splash of soda, plenty of ice cubes and a segment of orange. It felt like a very vintage and fun drink to sip.

The starters are very generous: I chose the Burrata, aubergine, caramelised onions, rocket and hazelnuts, my guest ordered Devon crab with radish, shallots and rocket. Both were cleverly constructed: delicate flavours combined to create attractive and delectable dishes. If you like the rich and creamy taste of burrata you will love this recipe, a unique contrast of subtle cheese, soft tangy onions, peppery rocket and crunchy nuts. The crab looked appealing too, a delicate, light starter. To accompany our meal I trusted our waitress to choose a suitable white… she returned with a bottle of Inama – Campo dei Tovi Soave Classico 2010, refreshing and fruity.

My venison ragu was insanely good, tender torn meat and intensely flavoured sauce with delicious homemade pasta. The bowl arrived with a side shot of liqueur to be drunk with the dish however the diner chooses. I wasn’t quite sure about this addition, apparently some decide to pour it in to mix with the pasta, I chose to just sip it occasionally. My guest chose the Ribeye steak (35 day aged) with marinated grilled zucchini & peperonata… it was a good piece of meat cooked exactly to specification with fresh and vibrant vegetables, though seemed a little bland compared to my exquisite pasta.

There wasn’t much space for puddings but we tried a couple from the select menu. The tiramisu was rather clumsily presented but tasted authentic and indulgent. My guest chose a simple bowl of caramel gelato, homemade and creamy. Had I been less concerned about sleeping that night, I would have tried the coffee which judging by a nearby table, looked divine.

I haven’t visited many good Italian restaurants in London, so I was delighted to discover Antico. If you manage to make it along, try to visit on a Wednesday when they have live music for the guests to enjoy while they eat.

Visit the website here for more information.