66-68 Brockley Rise
London SE23 1LN
Tel: 020 8690 3761
With a distinct lack of reasonable restaurants (with the exception of a very fine Indian) Brockley has no doubt benefitted from Le Querce, which brings a touch of much needed authentic Italian sunshine to this mainly overcast residential south London enclave.
Le Querce is spread over two shop fronts and has quite an unassuming presence, there is a charming outside eating area in front with a few tables that on a summer’s day suggests warmer climbs. The interior is bright and fresh with wooden chairs, larger than usual tables and joy of joys linen napkins. There is a clear view of the kitchen in the rear room, which makes the anticipation of the food all the greater as you see everyone else’s dishes going past. The walls are adorned with traditional Italian landscapes and the like, a bit mediocre and lacking in continuity for my liking but I am here for the food so not so bothered by the aesthetic.
The word family is over used in restaurants especially Italian ones but here it most certainly applies. The front of house is taken care of by the owner who rules with an iron rod hewn from charm and delight in equal measure. Nothing is too much trouble. We booked for 12.30, sat down and all the other tables had reservations. By ten past one the place was full. There were families, extended families, and couples even someone dining on their own, this is a casual relaxed place where things are done without a fuss or bother. An informal mood is prevalent and if you needed it the space between tables is large enough to provide ample intimacy. This is all a good family restaurant should be. Staff or should that be ‘family’ are efficient without letting you know it. Light music drifts around unobtrusively.
The menu descriptions do not do the cooking here justice. Many restaurants pride themselves on over elaborate details that conjour one thing and deliver another. Here almost the opposite applies, Tris di Salumi per Due is translated as Mixed Charcuterie for two people (£12.60) or how about Melanza, Pomodoro e Mozzaralla di Bufala which is written underneath as Aubergines, Tomatoes, Parmesan and Buffalo Mozzarrella (£7.50). This totally undersells what a wonderful dish it is. The intense aubergine married with the two cheeses all in a very attractive stack topped with basil and just the right amount of tomato made this a standout plate of food. A very good start, next one of the daily specials (of which there are many) Capesante e Salicornia of course we know that as Scallops and Samphire (£8) This was excellent with one minor complaint the side muscles were left on the scallops so a slight bitter note entered the palate. That aside the samphire was young and fresh the scallops sweet, nutty and soft as a favourite pillow, it came drizzled with a lovely reduction of Balsamic.
The mains were swiftly placed in front of us, a Salami Pizza presented on a well used wooden platter, a good sign. As the steam rises from this pizza I detect a note of authentic simplicity that took me back to Rome (£8.40). Pesce del Giorno – Catch of the Day: Fillet of Plaice with Crushed Potatoes (£12.40). This is a solid dish that could only have been improved by a light touch of butter to loosen it up a bit.
Time and room must be put by for the desserts of which there are many traditional, but the Ice Cream flavours are quite unusual (£4.50) for three scoops. The Mela e Pepe – Apple and Black Pepper, Pepperoncino – Chilli Pepper and Zucca e Amaretto – Pumkin and Amaretto might take your fancy. All were good but the constitution of an ox is needed to finish the Chilli one – more of an anaesthetic than a flavour, serves me right for being so greedy. On a sweeter note the Sfogliata alle Mele – Apple Tart Tatin (£4.60) offers superb value and is sumptuous.
The drinks offer just what you would expect with a few special treats thrown in for those birthdays that end in a zero. You could start the whole thing off with a Prusecco de Trevigiano at £6.60 for a glass or £22 a bottle, I’d say it was worth it as It arrives chilled and is delicate and slightly decadent without breaking the bank. The Full-bodied reds on offer are good value. The Montepucinao d’Abruzzo did taste really wonderful and not too heavy over lunch, at £16.95 for a bottle it’s hard to beat. At least a third of the wines on offer are available by the glass, poured by hand at the table without a measure in sight another nice ‘family’ touch.
A thoroughly recommendable Italian eatery that as a business has yet to grow into the high culinary standards it produces. Make the most of it before it does. The menu is beguiling simple – you can’t really order badly here.
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