In a nutshell:
Qvintessenza concentrates on Venetian cuisine and traditions, whilst sourcing food and drink from small artisan producers throughout Italy, resulting in an exciting an experience for the eager foodie. Set just off the bustling London Bridge area, it’s the ideal spot for people watching, especially thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows.
Owner Alessandro Zavarise, is passionate about bringing good-quality Italian product to our plates. Working alongside his head chef, Michele Tiveron, he brings a whole host of Venetian specialties, with carefully selected matching wines. The food is traditional but also progressive. We enjoyed Carbonara di spada, which switches bacon for chunks of meaty, salty swordfish and is topped with grated bottarga (dried and cured fish roe).
What are they cooking:
It’s possible to just order a quick bite and be off on your way, but that never seems to happen to me, and at Qvintessenza the menu is aimed at you having a good feed. There’s cicchetti, antipasti, primi piatti (a small pasta or risotto course) and the secondi piatti, full of simply cooked meats and fish (the ribeye is the one to go for), as well as pizza to choose from.
The meal got off to a good start when we were brought slices of bread topped with rosemary-infused porchetta and delicate lardo bicano with edible violas as our cicchetti.
The star of the show was a substantial and gloriously squidgy burrata. Creamy and delicately sour, and allowed to sit at room temperature for half an hour for optimum flavour which was further accentuated by a light black olive and tomato dressing and some thick and sherry-like apple balsamic vinegar. We shared this Burrata and prosciutto dish between two, which was advised by our waiter as the portion of smooth and silky 26-month maturd Parma ham that accompanies the cheese is on the large side.
What’s the room like/atmosphere:
Most of the ingredients used in the kitchen here are imported from Italy just like the fixtures and fittings (even the glassware and cutlery). The staff don’t rush their tables to finish, so you can take your time, and camp out for the evening.
Menu must-orders and misfires:
Qvintessenza is one of those restaurants where you’re already planning your next meal there because choosing from the menu is so difficult. My wish list for my next visit would include the signature dish fritto misto di pesce (vegetables, squid, king prawns and a sardine to share) and the beef tartare main course. As well as the usual ingredients, the tartare is mixed with cognac and served with rosemary croutons.
Portion sizes are on the large size here, so it’s worth asking the waiter what’s appropriate to share, considering the entirety of your order.
As you’d expect, Qvintessenza has an extensive prosecco list, with eight tank fermentation and bottle fermentation to choose from as well as other Italian sparkling wines to broaden your fizz horizons. The drinks menu, which only features bottles from small producers, also includes other wines and many after-dinner drinks, or you can order from the Italian craft beer bar in the corner of the restaurant. The Cantine Sant’ Agata Gavi del comune di gavi is great with the fish dishes.
What else did you like/dislike?
The desserts are made fresh on site, and a different flavour of sorbet is created every couple of days. The strawberry sorbet was exquisite, like chilled and creamy English strawberry jam.
When it comes to the savoury dishes though, be prepared for a heavy hand with the seasoning. We would have a preferred a little less salt.
Providing an authentic snippet of good-quality regional Italian food with a strong Italian-product focus, Qvintessenza is everything it sets out to be with excellent well-priced food in a chilled-out environment where you’re encouraged to enjoy, relax and stay for another drink.
304 Borough High Street
Words by Liz O’Keefe, November 2016