Bermondsey Street is one of my favourite areas in London and I've loved watching its gentrification over the past five years. Filled with bars and restaurants, I had my first date with my boyfriend in one, we celebrated my brother and his now-wife's engagement with Champagne in another, I've had countless cocktails and parties at Village East, plenty of evenings at my favourite Italian, Zucca (their seabass carpaccio is the stuff of dreams) and spent many hours at José Pizarro's tapas and sherry bar José and its big sister further down the road, Pizarro... So when a new place joins the club, I'm pretty excited.
On the corner of Bermondsey Street and Long Lane, diagonally opposite the Bermondsey Square Hotel, Antico is a cosy new Italian restaurant serving comfort food in comfortable surroundings. Located on the ground floor of a renovated antiques market, Antico opened in 2012 with a rustic, masculine décor featuring weathered mirrors, reclaimed brickwork, dimly-lit wooden tables and a busy open kitchen headed up by Nicholas Schizas.
We started the evening at hidden gem 214 Bermondsey, the underground gin den with over 50 gins and its very own homemade tonic, with a couple of cocktails and a gin flight. We were presented with three unlabelled gins (including my favourite, Gin Mare, with its distinct rosemary-infused, warm Mediterranean flavour), tasting notes and sealed envelopes telling us which ones matched which tasting notes. We have wine tasting, why not spirit tasting?
Once upstairs, we started with bright green nocellara olives and squidgy freshly baked focaccia then shared an antipasti board (I can't not order anything with burrata and prosciutto). Antico has a good range of wines by the glass, so rather than ordering a bottle, we tried several recommended wines from the list, which covers most areas of Italy from Piedmont to Tuscany to Puglia. For the mains, the slow-roasted pork shoulder tortelloni drizzled in sage butter is delicious but the monkfish risotto was the real stand out dish. Risottos are one of my favourite dishes to eat in restaurants or cook at home and this was probably the best one I've ever had. You won't be disappointed.
To finish, we popped back downstairs for a nightcap (the bar is open until 1.30am on Friday and Saturday nights) and promised to return. If you're in the London Bridge area, or even if you're not, it's worth the trip for traditional Italian food, good wines (at a very reasonable price) and friendly service.