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Restaurant Review: Union Street Cafe, London SE1

They claim the menu is Mediterranean but is, in fact, largely Italian. It’s obviously not a café and technically it’s not even on Union Street. But we’ll forgive a few fibs between friends.

Essentially, it’s an edgy, urban restaurant from the Gordon Ramsay Empire, showcasing fresh Italian fare.

Located a short hop south of Southwark tube station, Union Street Café fits into an area slowly wrestling the mantle of London’s hipster central from Shoreditch, in the east.

Exterior of Union Street Cafe at Night
Union Street Café located in Southwark is a lively urban restaurant and bar in central London offering quality Italian artisan foods

With not a tablecloth in sight, it features industrial-chic décor: concrete pillars, wooden floors, leather banquettes and strategically placed vintage mirrors. Even the overhead cabling and air-con ducts are all left exposed. Not quite anarchist-squat chic, but definitely warehousey surroundings.

Its main focus – apart from a large olive tree seemingly growing out of the restaurant floor – is the open kitchen perched on a mezzanine platform in one corner.

Leading the team is chef Davide Degiovanni, who sharpened his skills at L’Escargot and Locanda Locatelli, respectively. It isn’t just Davide who knows his onions, but the whole staff were seriously clued up, suggesting variations and adjustments to suit our needs.

We commenced with antipasti of Gamberetti – Spanish prawns, avocado, Camone tomato and rocket, (£9) and a Punterarelle – Chicory, orange, anchovies, ricotta and toasted bread. (£7.)   

I found it all rather ‘bitty’, at first, a bit of this, a bit of that.  However, things changed when magicians in the kitchen sent out our mains. A heavenly Lemon Sole, with Sardinian artichokes, liquorice and olives was utterly delicious. (£23.) Somehow it was both rich and light, at the same time.

JJ took the Merluzzo – a “juicy” Cod, with Monk’s beard, foamy topinambur and truffle. (£24.)  “Lovely”.

Olive Grove
Union Street Cafe has the enchanting Olive Grove bar, downstairs, available for private parties and functions

Liquid luxuries

We took our waiter’s advice and ordered a glass of Greco di Tufo with the Antipasti followed by a glass of Castello Pomino with our Secondi – a combo of luscious and delicious.  Erm…delulcious maybe?

Desserts range from a velvety chocolate and pear tart to an insanely creamy peanut and hazelnut Tiramisu. Don’t overlook the cheeseboard, though, with its extensive selection from artisan cheese makers.  

Union Street Cafe also has the enchanting Olive Grove bar, downstairs, available for private parties and functions. Transport yourself to the Italian Riviera as you drink and dine under a delightful canopy of olive trees and vines.

One thing I didn’t quite ‘get’ is the scrawly, ‘handwritten’ menu. A rather obvious affectation methinks.   

Kitchen at Union Street Cafe
Davide Degiovanni is the head chef at Union Street Cafe


Low-key lounging, or high-heel celebration, Union Street Café delivers a buzzy dining experience. A perfect pit-stop, if you’re ‘in the ‘hood’.

Address: 47-51 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 (020 7592 7977

Opening times: Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm. Sat-Sun 12pm-4pm, 6pm-11pm