Tavolino Bar & Kitchen, London: restaurant review
Does a regular diner reach the same conclusions about a restaurant as a food pro? Critic Eileen Twum and olive reader Lucia Patel compare notes on this Thames-side Italian restaurant
About Tavolino Bar & Kitchen, London
Tavolino Bar & Kitchen is a casual yet classy Italian restaurant a short walk from London Bridge in the More London development. The restaurant has a large outdoor terrace for al fresco dining and beautiful views over the River Thames which can be enjoyed from almost every seat.
The head chef Louis Korovilas, formerly head chef of Covent Garden spot Bancone, serves an extensive menu of Italian dishes inspired by the best produce from across Italy and the UK. You will find main dishes such as an ‘orzotto’ of sweetcorn and marjoram with confit chicken wings, ribeye steak, sun-dried oxheart tomato and gorgonzola bomboloni – but the handmade pasta such as the silk handkerchiefs with walnut butter and confit Burford Brown yolk; and Sicilian and red prawn bucatini are the real stars of the menu. The restaurant also caters to vegans and vegetarians offering selections on separate menus.
Tavolino is perfect for a casual date night or a small birthday dinner with friends (or if you just fancy nipping in for a quick drink, visit its Bar Aperitivo for an Italicus spritz and a bowl of courgette fritti).
Definitely a restaurant worth keeping in your back pocket when looking for somewhere relaxed, relatively affordable and with the bonus of a great riverside view.
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The pro restaurant reviewer
Eileen Twum is a restaurant critic and start-up exec, who is part of Black Book, a platform for black and non-white people working within hospitality and food media. @eix.leen
The punter restaurant reviewer
Lucia Patel works for a charity and lives in East Dulwich, London. She eats out at least once a week and her favourite cuisine is Nikkei. Her best eating out experience was Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Our pro’s Tavolino Bar & Kitchen, London restaurant review…
“Wow, what a lovely view,” is where we started this little eating adventure outside on the terrace on one of those perfect summer London evenings. While reading the menu we ordered a carafe each from the wine list – a Barbera Piemonte from the reds and a Gavi del Comune di Gavi from the whites.
The menu is a classic Italian choice of snacks, antipasti, pasta, pizza, secondi and dessert. A starter of crispy panelle (chickpea fritter), lardo, smoked duck breast and whipped anchovy sounded lovely but lacked interest in terms of flavour and texture. The ’nduja and burrata pizza was a tasty enough carb alternative to the pasta. Saddle of lamb was a perfectly pleasant option for those who believe that carbs are evil – decent but not mind-blowing.
We ordered two pasta dishes we were familiar with from visits to Bancone: the simple but classic bucatini cacio e pepe – a thick spaghetti-style pasta drenched in parmesan, a tonne of crushed black pepper and butter; and the Instagram-famous silk handkerchiefs with walnut butter and confit Burford Brown yolk. Both hit the mark. The fresh handmade pasta was perfectly al dente and both dishes were rich yet also deliciously light at the same time.
We finished by selecting the polenta skillet cake to share from a dessert menu that includes tiramisu, ice creams, sorbets and a list of ‘liquid desserts’, which loosely translates to boozy dessertstyle cocktails. The skillet cake is made for two to share, takes 15 minutes to make and the light cake consistency and rich cherry compote topping gently tipped us over the edge into a full-blown food coma.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Tavolino is a fun spot with amazing views where you can have a good meal and a good time at a reasonable price. My advice: stick to the pasta and wine.
Total for two, excluding service: £122.72
Our punter’s Tavolino Bar & Kitchen, London restaurant review…
It was the perfect evening for a riverside stroll to Tavolino. The terrace has stunning views of Tower Bridge but we escaped the heat and sat inside, where the low-ceilinged, pink and teal interior of banquettes and pillars became even more charming post-sunset in the cosy lamplight.
Service throughout our visit was friendly and unobtrusive, with thoughtful recommendations, such as the sparkly Prugna Frizzante, a juicy Akashi-Tai plum sake enlivened by white grape and apricot soda, and prosecco.
We found the focaccia a little dry but loved the parmesan and lardo bombolini, deepfried spheres whose satisfying crunch gave way to a pillowy, unctuous cheese filling. We had seconds.
A burrata antipasto could have been creamier but was cleverly balanced by basil oil spiked with mint; panelle wrapped in smoked duck breast came with a wonderfully light, umami-packed anchovy whip, though the delicate savouriness of the duck was lost in the crispy but flavourless fritters.
A main of lamb saddle was bursting with flavour, if a touch overcooked, with salty, crispy skin and an inspired side of peperonata (stewed red peppers), singing with summer sweetness. The showstopper was silky pasta handkerchiefs served with a golden egg yolk, studded with earthy walnuts and zingy hits of pecorino: simplicity at its most sumptuous.
We ended with a skillet polenta cake and were extremely glad we did – a crumbly, butter-rich cake served with a sweetshopsherbet cherry sauce.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Tavolinos’ authentically simple menu has some truly standout dishes, while friendly, thoughtful service and a fun drinks menu make for a joyful evening.
Total for two, excluding service: £144
Photographs: Sam A Harris. Eileen Twum portrait: Sam Witney