Some would say that it’s not possible to find proper pasta outside of Italy, but tucked between Southwark and Bermondsey is Flour & Grape – an Italian food lover’s dream, and perfect for a simple, but delicious, dinner date.
The venue is fairly small but has a cosy feel to it. There are low wooden tables and exposed brick walls, with specials scrawled across chalkboards. The main decorations are the hundreds of (we’re guessing empty) wine bottles lining the walls. The lighting is muted, and the atmosphere is noisy in a way that feels typically Italian – a little raucous, even chaotic. Don’t let it put you off through, it simply adds to the ambience.
The menu is divided into two categories: antipasti and pasta. The antipasti, which can be eaten as a starter portion, or tapas-style as a main course to share, is delicious. Choose from traditional dishes like burrata, or more interesting combinations, such as marinated artichoke with ricotta, or bruschetta with sweet gorgonzola.
For many of us, pasta is reminiscent of the days of being a poor student, unable to survive on anything else as, a) you didn’t know how to cook, and b) you’d generally spent all your money at the pub. But forget boring pasta with a jar of own-brand supermarket sauce, this restaurant takes a typical quick-fix dish to new levels of sophistication. Think fettuccine with lamb ragu and wild garlic, or truffle taglierini with cured egg yolk. They cater to various dietary preferences too, from vegan to gluten free, and even better are the reasonable prices, as many of the dishes come in at under £10 for a generous portion – a rare find in central London, and absolutely worth the spend.
If you’ve got room after all that carb-loading, there is a small selection of desserts to choose from. There’s something for everyone, from budino (a typically Italian creamy dessert) to the slightly more unusual raspberry and red wine sorbet.
The wine list is another great feature of this gem of a restaurant, not simply because of the wide variety on offer (the vast majority being strictly Italian, of course), but also because each dish has a recommended wine next to it, with a mini guide detailing tasting notes and explanations of the regions in the full wine list.
The only minor drawback of this popular Italian paradise is that they don’t take reservations for dinner, not uncommon in our foodie capital. The system works well, though – put your name on a list, leave your phone number, and you get a text when your table is ready. This allows you and your date to pop downstairs to Flour & Grape’s adjoining cocktail bar, Two One Four, for an aperitivo of aperol spritz, or a negroni.
Overall, we loved everything about Flour & Grape: the fantastic Italian food, great choice of wines, and its lively atmosphere make this a firm favourite of ours for a date venue if you’re in the area. You won’t regret paying them a visit!
Cost: around £70 for antipasti and mains for two, a bottle of wine, and service.
Dress code: Casual