A few months ago, I was surprised to find a gem of Tapas restaurant in the unlikely location of Honor Oak. The suburb is a halfway spot between one of my best friend and my homes so we are gradually working our way through the bars and restaurants in the area. As I cook Italian so often at home, I don’t often eat it when I go out, so I’m always looking for that extra ‘something’ when I seek out Italian restaurants to frequent. A few weeks ago, we paid an impromptu visit to Le Querce on Brockley Rise in the Honor Oak/Forest Hill area. The restaurant covers two shop fronts – one longer with tables dotted around the centrepiece bar, while a shallower group of tables in the adjoining section next door. The night in question we arrived, it was pretty busy, but as we were a party of two, they were able to accommodate us straight away. The interiors were fairly simple: wooden tables, comfortable chairs and the sort of photos you’d see on a wall in someone’s home, giving it a laidback feel and leaving the focus on the food.
Le Querce was opened by Italian chef Antonello Serra in 2006, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Il Faro in Sardinia and Assaggi in the city of London. The concept seems to be recreating the essential Italian dining experience – great food and wine and sharing the experience with friends and family. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh ingredients, which are locally sourced, which was evident in our dishes. Having looked at neighbouring tables’ generous portions, my friend and I decided to avoid the starters so we had room for our mains. We were celebrating my friend’s recent engagement so ordered a bottle of Prosecco and some fresh bread to keep hunger at bay while we waited for our food to be cooked. The staff were friendly and attentive, and if you happen to speak any Italian, it would be well received too. One thing of note is the restaurant also caters to people on a gluten-free diet.
The menu is an authentic Italian set-up, comprising of Antipasti, Primi and Secondi piatti or pizza. Mains range from £7 to £14, with an extensive specials menu daily. I ordered Prawn Pasta off the specials, while my friend opted for Costata di Manzo Inglese (English Striploin Steak with diced Aubergines all’agrodolce). I’m happy to say the prawns in my dish were of a hearty size, and plentiful as I’ve often found other restaurant have ‘shrimped’… I mean scrimped on how many they’ve doled out. The tomato sauce was subtle in flavour and didn’t overpower the prawns, which were cooked perfectly. The thick pasta was a lot easier to eat than spaghetti and had the density I prefer. My friend really enjoyed her steak, which was juicy and succulent. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. The food was delicious, the service was friendly and you felt like you were at an Italian family’s (albeit a large family!) home. After eating our meal, there was no pressure for us to leave as we sat chatting over the remainders of our Prosecco. I would highly recommend Le Querce for an experience of authentic Italian dining and at a reasonable price too.
- Le Querce, 68 Brockley Rise, SE23 1LN. Tel: 02086903761. Nearest train/overground: Honor Oak. For more information, visit the Le Querce website.
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So many pubs and bars these days blend into one another with their identical interiors and serving the same range of drinks. However, when it comes to the newest addition to the Forest Hill drinking scene, Sylvan Post is a truly unique venue. The pub is located in an old 1960s post office, with many of the original features still in existence. I wouldn’t use the word converted exactly, because there are still so many Royal Mail features within the building, which I loved. The bar itself feels like an old Post Office counter, with the original shelving and clock behind – I could even read ‘first class x 12’ and ‘second class x 12’ written on one of the shelves. The door to what would have been the back office is now accessible with a mish mash of seating amongst old filing cabinets, including the metal strong room door. Adding to the retro, kitsch feel are formica tables and wooden seating, giving the pub a working men’s club-meet-school canteen – in a good way! The owners had clearly embraced the building’s history with lots of Royal Mail paraphernalia mixed with beer mats and other interiors from the 1960s.
The night in question a group of friends and myself visited, it was incredibly busy due to the Museum At Nights event up the hill at the Horniman Museum. Although we were too big a group to fit in one of the cosy-looking booths, we were lucky enough to get one of the large tables. We were all starving, so ordered from the varied menu, which includes a mix of British and Mediterranean fare. I ordered a vegetable frittata with salad and fresh bread, which was delicious and filling. Two of my friends ordered the Angus beef burger, which they really enjoyed.
Ale drinkers will be particularly drawn to this pub as it always has four real ales on tap. There was a good wine menu too, as well as the usual collection of bottled beers and ciders and spirits. The service was friendly, with a mix of 20 and 30 something clientele. Although it attracts mostly locals, it won’t disappoint those making a longer trip seeking a unique and quirky venue.
- Sylvan Post. 24-28 Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3XU. Nearest train/Overground station: Forest Hill (13 minutes from London Bridge). For more information, visit the Sylvan Post website.
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