Does a regular diner reach the same conclusion about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Laura Rowe and olive reader Federica Squadrilli compare notes on this new Portuguese restaurant in London Bridge
Looking for places to eat near London Bridge? Check out our review of Londrino restaurant and see if an expert restaurant critic comes to the same conclusion as an olive reader.
The pro restaurant reviewer
Our editor Laura Rowe, originally from the Cotswolds, has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraroweeats.
London-based Federica Squadrilli’s favourite food is Italian, as she comes from Naples (read our weekend guide to Naples here). She eats out once a week and her best dining experience was the tasting menu at The Fat Duck. She loves snacking on dark chocolate.
About Londrino, London
Londrino is the Portuguese word for Londoner, which is what head chef Leandro Carreira has become since moving over from Portugal. Leandro picked up experience at Nuno Mendes’s Viajante in London before popping up at Climpson’s Arch in Hackney in 2016, and has recently opened his first restaurant, a casual dining spot in London Bridge. (Check out our top best restaurants in London Bridge here)
The 70-cover restaurant is split into two rooms and an all-day wine bar. Sit at the bar with a glass of wine and a platter of regional Portuguese cheeses and cured meats, or pick from the à la carte menu in the main dining area.
The chefs use Portuguese ingredients (requeijão cheese, coriander piso, bísaro pork) alongside British produce such as Welsh lamb, teal and crab to create dishes that reflect Leandro’s culinary journey. Expect lots of seafood, too, including octopus with red pepper miso, cured sea trout with wild horseradish, and savoy cabbage with smoked seaweed butter and mackerel. (Check out our recipe for quick cured mackerel)
There was a lot of industry buzz surrounding Leandro Carreira’s first permanent, solo site. With stellar experience behind him, a legion of new fans thanks to his year-long pop-up, and a heritage that’s ripe for culinary exploration, Londrino could/should have been brilliant.
Prior to visiting, though, those close to Leandro told us of his nervousness of the restaurant being labelled Portuguese. But far from releasing himself from the constraints of a singular cuisine, it seems from the minute we walk into the new restaurant, he’s lost. *I wasn’t recognised.
The room is cold and stark – shades of grey, without the sex appeal. Polished concrete, light fixtures made from plane parts, clothless tables, looming fans above, then cheap electric heaters below. It’s industrial, and doesn’t scream comfort.
Staff are helpful, but lack warmth, too – there’s an uncomfortable absence of eye contact. The menu, we’re told, is designed to be shared with small plates that come at first quickly, then slowly from the open kitchen.
The first to arrive, whelks, xerém and alexanders – think Portuguese polenta – is okay. The shellfish are pot luck in tenderness, the xerém neither pleasant in flavour or texture. Fermented potatoes in a mustard ‘piso’ (a nod to his old boss, Nuno) are challenging with the potatoes al dente, only just rescued by a cured, creamy egg yolk.
Monkfish is better – firm cheeks balancing above sweet onion and a comforting broth – but still 2D. Hunks of seared, smoked beef, while great quality, felt let down by its platefellows of Jerusalem artichokes and turnip stalks. Bísaro presa (pork) is well cooked but its side of salsify shards is depressing. Where, oh where, are the sauces?
Puddings limp us through to the end – requeijão (a Portuguese cream cheese) doesn’t do it for us, and is joined by an average lemon curd, and boring malt and vanilla ‘waffle’ biscuits. The ice creams – we tried caraway (great tasting), and whey and smoked honey (meh) – are gummy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s no doubting Leandro and his team know how to cook – but the plates feel unfinished. Where’s the heart? Show us the soul! Add a few pot plants. Give us some sauce. Until then, I’ll struggle to justify forking out so much for so little.
Total for two, excluding service: £120
Our punter’s Londrino, London restaurant review…
On our lunchtime visit, large windows let in plenty of light to brighten up the industrial interiors: grey columns, polished wood tables and chairs, and an impressive statement chandelier (made from recycled fighter jet parts) hovering over the dining area. Portugal is evoked by bespoke grey, white and orange tiles.
We were greeted by friendly staff, and service was unobtrusive but knowledgeable throughout; we asked to clarify a couple of dishes and for recommendations from the drinks list, all questions answered without hesitation.
The menu follows the small plates ‘sharing’ trend, with a mix of English and Portuguese words, some of which required translation. As our waiter suggested, we opted for five dishes between two. They arrived mostly staggered, but we experienced a fair wait between a couple.
The clams were superb: juicy in a delicate, aromatic and colourful broth with coriander and garlic, good value at £9. The fermented potato course that followed was an innovative one: we’d been warned of the potatoes’ texture (more like an apple) and they did feel a little odd, but the coriander piso coating, bitter and herbaceous, was a good contrast; the dish grew on us.
An octopus platter was disappointing: the thick, long tentacle looked quite menacing on the plate, and we thought it would have shone with a bolder cooking method than the light steaming; the sliced radish added some texture but was not powerful enough to offer the necessary sharpness, the only real flavour was provided by the hot red-pepper miso sauce. The bísaro presa was spiced with paprika and served with crisp slivers of salsify. Our final savoury dish was flavour-packed grilled mackerel with refreshing cabbage, cooked in a smoked seaweed butter.
We ended our meal with two scoops of ice cream: a creamy, well-balanced vanilla and caramel, and a whey and smoked honey which we found a little too sweet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Reminding us more of Nordic cuisine and décor than sunny Portugal (read our guide to the best places to eat in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital), we thought some dishes were a little over-engineered, others exceptional. Prices are on the steep side so, while we enjoyed our meal, I would not be coming here regularly.