Having recently moved to Clapham, I have decided to explore the local food offering, and what better place to start than Northcote Road. Stretching from Clapham Common to Wandsworth, Northcote Road is a thriving hub of young professionals in the evenings and welcomes a varied crowd to its morning market. Awash with restaurants boasting top-class cuisine from around the world, foodies are spoilt for choice.
Osteria Antica Bologna’s clashing hues of terracotta, orange and bright pink catch the eye, but there is nothing showy about the restaurant once inside. Simple dark wood tables, wicker chairs and leather benches are arrange with just enough space for the waiters to manoeuvre around the room. The food is classic, no fuss, home-style cooking – no fancy flourishes or clever plating, just great ingredients handled with respect.
The tomato and burrata bruschetta is a great place to start; a cascade of diced fresh tomato piled atop a light crostini base doused in golden olive oil, and finished with a round of burrata whose creamy, refreshing centre flowed out of its delicate mozzarella skin. With two crostini slices hidden beneath the tomato hill, it’s ideal for sharing along with a plate of fritto misto; lightly battered and fried calamari, white bait, courgette and a solo king prawn that you’ll have to fight over.
The list of mains changes frequently to reflect seasonal produce. The restaurant has put its own stamp on classic Italian pasta dishes. Instead of the usual spinach and ricotta ravioli, there are delicate parcels of fine egg yellow pasta, plump with sheep’s ricotta and bitter-sweet asparagus tips, and dressed in silky sage-infused butter. Pasta al ragù gets a make-over with black pepper spaghetti and a slow-cooked, intensely meaty wild boar ragout.
The barbecued king prawns burst with Mediterranean sun, arranged on a bed of saffron fregula (or giant couscous) with warmed cherry tomatoes, slithers of sweet, translucent red onion and plenty of parsley. Once the fiddly task of removing the shells (while burning quite a few fingers) was complete, it was a pleasure to eat – a taste of Mediterranean summertime.
For meat lovers, you can’t go wrong with the tender cut of veal, cooked on the bone, imparting optimal meatiness, and infused with woody rosemary. The meat comes one way only, cooked to a medium – the perfect cook says the chef. He wasn’t wrong – it was tender, juicy… simply put, delicious. The slithers of potato, lightly fried with garlic and more rosemary, were a fantastic accompaniment.
The fish of the day was a succulent monkfish served on wilted spinach and a vibrant caponata, studded with capers, juicy cherry tomatoes, sweet onion and black olives.
An all-Italian wine list showcases the best of Italian vineyards from across the country. We chose a very drinkable Trebbiano D’Abruzzo – a crisp grape with a delicate bouquet that paired perfectly with my prawns and also worked surprisingly well with the woody rosemary flavour of the veal dish. A fantastic table wine to please all.
With the exception of my mum’s homely English crumbles, tarts and puddings, tiramisù is by far my favourite dessert and one I’ll always choose if on the menu. Osteria Antica Bologna’s take on this classic Italian confection didn’t disappoint. Sponge fingers were soaked in just enough coffee liqueur to be succulent yet hold their shape and layered with a sweet and aerated egg-yellow mascarpone custard. I happily polished off the generous portion.
The pistachio crema catalana is possibly one of the best I have tasted. Served in a petite espresso cup, the perfectly set, soft green custard was topped with a fine sugar crust that my friend cracked into with childlike enjoyment.
For a light and elegant dessert, the peach tart is an excellent choice. Ripe slices of blushing fruit are arranged atop a thin butter biscuit spread with vanilla crème patisserie, dusted with icing sugar for a little added sweetness and served with lightly toasted almonds and cool vanilla ice cream.
This honest, no frills cooking brings the traditional osteria of Italy to south London.
Osteria Antica Bologna
23 Northcote Road
T: 020 7978 4771
Open 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:30 Mon-Fri; 12:00-16:00 & 18:00-22:30 Sat-Sun