Sat on a quiet road behind the hustle and bustle of the city’s Thames riverfront is Legare. The dimly lit cobbled streets of Bermondsey’s Shad Thames set the scene for this intimate restaurant.
Greeted warmly under ambient lights, owner Jay Patel sits my dining partner and I in the centre of the restaurant, which equally feels like a cosy nook to dine in, and Alice Inez, restaurant manager, offers us a still or sparkling – sparkling please.
Every seat is filled for the evening. It’s a place perfect for pairs; couples on date nights, families celebrating birthdays, work colleagues looking for a bite to eat after work – Legare feels like a place people return to. And once our spuntini arrived, I already knew I couldn’t wait to do the same.
I believe you could judge a spot based solely on their bread, and Legare’s roasted garlic and oregano focaccia, with olive oil for dipping, was bouncy and fresh, and almost cake like. With some extra large, juicy olives on the side, and a bottle of red to sip on, we relaxed into our seats knowing, “this is going to be good”.
The select menu by head chef Matt Beardmore is a pretty exquisite affair, with a focus on Italian cuisine and British produce. The menu changes with the seasons, and we found it to be full of surprises.
For antipasti, we went for beef tartare with egg yolk and “tartufo povero” and, having asked for a recommendation from Jay, we had his favourite dish of smoked eel with seared gem lettuce and caesar dressing, which was our first pleasant surprise of the evening. The smokiness of the eel with the fresh salad crunch of leaves created a heavenly mouthful.
But primi is truly where I reached cloud nine. Splitting two pasta dishes, we had Legare’s fettuccelle with short-rib Genovese ragu and delica pumpkin agnolotti with sage butter and chestnuts. The pasta, al dente, had the perfect texture to wrap up in the flavours of the sauces – one rich with meat and wine, the other in silky butter with almost meaty chestnuts resting on top, sweet and savoury.
To finish, it was a cannolo with chocolate and hazelnuts – a rich and scrumptious praline flavour, oozing with filling and a good snap from the pastry – plus our second delightful surprise of the evening, another recommendation by Jay, we had their pear, almond and polenta cake with caramel sauce. It was soft and light, with a touching of fruit and a dollop of sticky sauce to elevate the natural sweetness even further. It was a divine way to end a top-notch evening at Legare.
31G Shad Thames, SE1 2YR