The Table, Southwark

I have a problem with pasta. The issue is that I utterly adore it and for that reason have to limit my consumption to roughly once a week. I save up my pasta allowance for as long as possible then cave and indulge in a binge of, frankly, disgusting proportions. I can eat enough pasta in one sitting for approximately four people; probably more if I really put my mind to it. My favourite ‘recipe’ is something I call ‘sick spaghetti’. This is a concoction I have, ahem, ‘refined’ over the years until it is now unhealthy and intense enough to deliver ultimate pasta binge satisfaction. I will share the recipe at some point. Maybe.

So anyway I saw a picture of this tagliatelle alla bottarga at The Table Cafe in Bermondsey and instantly became obsessed with the idea of eating it. I mean, look. Just look. I could see that the pasta was very well made and cooked; yes I can tell how well pasta is cooked just by looking at it. In fact, I’ve eaten so much pasta in my life I can tell when it’s cooked by the change in the sound of the water. I’m serious. And bottarga – if you’ve never had it you’re missing a trick. It is the roe of either tuna or grey mullet, which is salted and dried, then sliced or shaved thinly to serve. It is intensely salty and rich in flavour, which obviously makes it perfect for working through pasta. This is a classic Sardinian dish, usually made with spaghetti, then plenty of bottarga, parsley, lemon juice and more than a slug of olive oil. The pasta was al dente, almost chewy; just the right side of too thick. My mouth waters as I think about it now. It was, basically, a perfect plate of pasta. Tagliatelle with porcini and parsley was also excellent. Behold the glossy magnificence…

A quail with crisp, salty skin was stripped clean, though only after we all stopped laughing at its frankly gynaecological appearance on the plate. Mature.

A bowl of fregola sarda (toasted Sardinian pasta shaped like giant cous cous)  with crab and courgettes was unexpectedly good; we only ordered it because I needed to know whether or not something can be done with fregola that isn’t that soupy Sardinian clam dish. I’m sure it’s lovely and all but the idea of mini balls of pasta bobbing about in soup just weirds me out. I’m totally ripping off the crab recipe…

The chef at The Table, Cinzia Ghignoni is, unsurprisingly, Italian. She’s previously worked at Duck Soup, Angela Hartnett and Zucca. Nice. It’s a damn sight easier to get a table here than at any of those restaurants and yet my friend remarked while we were eating that the meal was ‘better than the meal I had last week at Zucca’. The menu has recently changed, and The Table are working with a homeless charity, St. Mungo’s, who provide vegetables and herbs from their allotment. In short, they’re doing lots of very good things. Get a table now before everyone else does.

When I compare this with my much over-hyped meal at Dabbous I am baffled. This cost* half the price for a lot more food which was infinitely more enjoyable. A fussy, hit and miss, technically complicated tasting menu, or a plate of perfect pasta. I know which I’d rather have…

*I didn’t pay for my meal at The Table Cafe so you’re just going to have to believe what I say oh and LOOK AT THE PICTURES. 

The Table Cafe
83 Southwark Street
London
SE1 0HX

The Table on Urbanspoon

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41 thoughts on “The Table, Southwark

  1. Hi Abadesi,

    As co-owner and general manager of The Table, I wanted to respond to both the comments you left here and on Tripadvisor.

    As Helen has already mentioned, we change our menu regularly, we’re extremely seasonal and often create dishes based on our daily delivery of vegetables and herbs from St Mungo’s allotments. This was one of the few occasions when we weren’t offering pasta. However, pasta will now remain a fixture, in part due to your disappointment.

    Wine is obviously a subjective experience. Our wine consultant, Matt Walls, author of Drink Me!: How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine (Quadrille Press, May 2012) has worked for many years in the wine trade. He and I put the descriptions together, and I’d be surprised if we were the only ones to agree that a Verdeca can indeed be described as ‘dry’. You mentioned on Tripadvisor that you didn’t recognise anything on the wine list, we wanted to create a list that included a selection of less well known wines in keeping with our philosophy of offering something unique at The Table. We have included detailed descriptions to help introduce our guests to the wines that may be unfamiliar, and we’re always more than happy to replace or refund a bottle of wine if you let us know of an issue before it has been drunk.

    As far as bloggers and reviewers are concerned, no restaurateur is guaranteed a review as a result of inviting a food critic for a meal. They are known throughout the industry as being a difficult bunch, who have their own reputations to think of. I imagine Helen is no different.

    Regardless, I am personally disappointed that you felt let down. Please feel free to call me (020 7401 2760) or email me (eat@thetablcafe.com) and I would be happy to arrange a discounted meal for you if you wish to give us a second chance.

  2. What a let down! Off the back of this review I was so excited and booked dinner at the Table last night with two friends I had invited down from North and West London.

    How disappointed were we to discover – not a single pasta dish on the menu, slow service (took 40 minutes to clear our empty starter plates even though the restaurant was not full), a manager whose wine list described a citrusy/fruity white wine as dry and scoffed at us when we said otherwise after tasting (we had only one sip yet he refused to deduct the price from our menu)

    And worst of all – the smallest portions this side of a Michelin star restaurant. This is the last time I trust a review where the restaurant let the writer dine free i.e. bribed them.

    Maybe its the case that this restaurant is best suited to meals other than dinner but I left deflated, disappointed, 45 quid down, and hungry :-(

    I love your blog Helen! But on this occasion the restaurant did not even come close to delivering the same experience you seem to have received.

    1. Hi Abadesi,

      What a shame you didn’t enjoy your meal there.

      As far as I’m aware the menu changes on a regular basis so there is never a guarantee that pasta will be on the menu. I’m very confused by the portion sizes too as you can see the size of mine from the pictures – they were not small at all and that wasn’t just the case for our table. I rarely accept invites to review and when I do, it is not always the case that I rave about them.

      I’ve heard so many positive things from others recently but clearly you had a different experience; such a shame.

  3. We came here for being before going to the Tate. I had buttermilk pancakes with bacon, bananas and maple syrup. I thought they were one of the best I have ever had and a really generous portion. I also treated myself to a white peach Bellini which was ice cold and very refreshing. My husband had the Table Stack which was an enormous serving of poached eggs with chorizo and beans.

  4. That looks incredible – and right up my street (figuratively speaking).

    As a (rather long) aside, I’ve worked out the only way to truly curb my pasta ‘quantity’ issue at home is to make it myself – crucially without a pasta maker.

    If i make it on a week night after work, by the time i’ve made the dough, let it rest for a bit, rolled it out as thinly as I can (this is the bit that requires energy to roll, turn, roll that bloody elastic dough), just before I lose the will to live is exactly the moment that I’ve made a decent but not overly piggy portion.

    Of course i could just measure the weight of dried pasta, but i feel much more worthy this way….!!

    1. I am in awe. My pasta machine broke recently and I tried once again to make it by hand. Wow. Serious elbow grease required. I found myself standing on a stool and using my whole body weight to try and roll it out on a different occasion recently. Was still a nightmare…

  5. This looks fab – I’ve been meaning to go here for ages and can’t believe I haven’t yet.

    I work round the corner from Sardo in Fitzrovia and my Italian workmate frequently drags me there for spaghetti a la bottarga. If I’m in the mood for it, it’s so damn tasty.

  6. (I believe you)

    And I stay in SE1 and can’t believe I’ve never known about this place. Esp love that they’re working with st mungo’s and sourcing local ingredients. that’s what I love about italian food, simple good cooking, using good ingredients. Thanks for the rec!

  7. ‘A fussy, hit and miss, technically complicated tasting menu, or a plate of perfect pasta. I know which I’d rather have…’

    Ditto :)

    Never heard of bottargo before, sounds yum

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