Union Street Cafe

47-51 Great Suffolk Street, London, SE1 0BS, United Kingdom

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The latest Gordon Ramsay venture is Union Street Café in Southwark, which opened in September 2013. The 99-seat restaurant is a departure from the usual Ramsay formula in that it is serving Italian food. Its head chef is Davide Degiovanni, who previously worked as head chef of Amaranto at The Four Seasons, and before that as sous chef at Semplice and Locanda Locatelli. The dining room follows the current London trend for the industrial look, with parquet floor, ceiling with exposed wiring, and no tablecloths.  

Antipasta was priced at £6 - £9, pasta dishes £9, main courses £15 - £18 and desserts at £6. The predominantly Italian wine list had 125 choices, starting at £18.50, with a median price of £45 and going up to Ornellaia at £310 for a wine that will set you back £178 in a shop. Example wines were Terre Giumara Grecanico 2012 at £25 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £8, Bernard Defaix Chablis 2012 at £45 for a wine that retails at £14, and Valentini 2007 at £110 for a wine that costs around £61 in a shop. Bread was bought in from a nearby Borough Market bakery (that was as much as a clue as our waiter could give), and the white slices were fresh and had reasonable texture (13/20). 

Sardines (£8) with red and yellow peppers were notionally flavoured with saffron, though that was far from obvious. The sardines were pleasant enough if a little oily, the peppers cooked too long and so rather soggy in texture, the portion size modest (12/20).

Tagliolini (£13) with chanterelles and pecorino had decent enough pasta, though the cheese flavour rather overwhelmed the mushrooms (12/20).  Vanilla sponge cake (£6) sounds more exotic on the menu: “torta paradiso”, the ice cream with it bland, the cake just a little on the dry side (12/20).

Service was very good, the staff enthusiastic and friendly. If you ordered a modestly priced wine then your bill per person would come to around £50 or so per head. This is not excessively expensive, though given that in the same area you can eat at Zucca for a similar price but get much better food, it is also scarcely a bargain. Union Square Café has a pleasant enough atmosphere, but the food I tried was fairy basic. With the blizzard of publicity around the opening it was busy, but the test will be whether it draws people back once the effect of the Ramsay PR machine has worn off. 

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