Shutting a much-loved joint to open a different concept is a risk, but for Flour and Grape looks like a happy occasion
OK, pasta is not a new concept – in Britain we’ve had it for – ooo – a couple of decades or so and it’s proved quite popular. But why it has taken quite so long for London restaurants, with all their high-concept thinking, to come up with pasta-specialist joints I don’t know.
Padella, Pastiao, and now Flour and Grape, have chopped all the extra-curriculars out of trad trattoria menus, spruced up the pasta offering, stuck in a takeaway option and, Roberto’s your uncle, it’s a winner.
Or rather, we shall see in a couple of years time whether these are still standing and joined by a host of copycats, or whether they will have innovated in another direction.
For now, the much-loved Antico on Bermondsey Street, a kind of upmarket neighbourhood dining joint, closed, only to reopen, like a phoenix rising from the flames, as Flour and Grape. With a new look (high stools, counter-eating, aforementioned takeaway option), it is indeed still a neighbourhood joint ut with a bit more casualness, a bit more of a clear raisin d’etre and a lower price point.
The pasta, of course, has to sing at the heart of this concept and the gigli with fennel sausage, the pappardelle with beef short-rib, and the tortellini with roasted pork shoulder jump out and grab your cheeks like an overzealous Italian grandparent.
What’s really exciting – maybe just for restaurant nerds – is the generally low level of the prices. This signals a real shift from the almost fine-diningy Antico and is a bold, positive and welcome move, indicating that although the febrile London real estate/hospitality markets are constantly shifting, so is the ambition and approach of our restaurateurs.
Bermondsey has spent 20 years gentrifying and with Casse Croute, Village East, Jose et al moving in things have hotted up, so it’s a great place to visit and live (Druid Street and Maltby Street markets too!), it’s a great place to go on a foodie adventure.