Antico opened in April 2012, yet another addition to the burgeoning set of restaurants on Bermondsey Street. Although the restaurant is owned by a gentleman called Nick Crispini, the kitchen is supervised by Theo Randall. The head chef at Antico is Nicholas Schizas, who worked at Theo Randall’s flagship restaurant in Mayfair and also with Jose Pizzaro.
The ground floor dining room has a bar as you enter, with a further room downstairs. The exposed brick walls and wooden floor are very in-vogue, but I suspect that on a busy evening service these would contribute to quite high noise levels. There was a set lunch available for £19 for three courses, as well as a la carte choices and a couple of blackboard specials of the day. We mixed the set menu with the a la carte in order to be able to try a few different dishes.
The all Italian wine list had detailed tasting notes. Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno 2012 was £22 for a wine that retails at £8, Gavi di Tasserolo Terrarossa La Zerba 2012 was £32 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £15, and Renieri Brunello di Montalcino 2007 was £72 for a wine that will set you back £45 in a shop.
Soft shell crab with rocket and mustard cress avoided greasiness in the batter coating the crab, but the shellfish itself had quite limited flavour. The salad was fine though for me a little more bite from the garnish of red chilli would have been welcome (13/20). Salad of asparagus, broad beans, peas, baby gem lettuce and pecorino cheese was better, the ingredients of good quality, the dressing well judged: a simple but excellent salad (14/20).
Beef ragu fazzoletti featured simple squares of “handkerchief’ pasta, which had good texture, topped with well flavoured ragu made from beef shin and topped with Parmesan. The beef was tender and the seasoning accurate (14/20). Cod was pan-roasted and served with braised leeks, salsify and lemon butter. The fish was carefully cooked and the lemon butter had enough sharpness to keep the dish tasting fresh (14/20).
Amalfi lemon tart had well-made pastry and a pleasant filling, accompanied by vanilla ice cream nicely flecked with enough vanilla to give a rich flavour (14/20). Chocolate, almond and hazelnut cake was also very good, the nuts adding a nice contrast to the richness of the chocolate, the cake carefully baked (14/20). The coffee was decent enough.
The bill came to £28 a head for lunch, with just mineral water to drink. Service was pleasant and efficient, and overall I thought Antico offered a very enjoyable experience. The food was simple but well-made, the atmosphere casual and relaxed.