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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Honor Oak in South East London may not be your first thought of a location for a great tapas restaurant. However, Donde is a wonderful new addition to local culinary scene, bringing a relaxed and enjoyable eating experience. Opened in September 2013 on the site of a former Tapas restaurant, Donde features a bar and restaurant in two adjoining rooms. The restaurant is simple and modern – leaving the focus on the food and atmosphere. Wood chip tables are dotted around with orange and blue chairs against a colourful backdrop of a wall mural featuring Spanish scenes.
Upon arrival, our group of six were shown to a table by the arch separating the bar from the dining area. As it was a Tuesday, we opted for the ‘two Tapas for £7’ offer for many of our dishes (this offer applies daily within different time slots). The menu is split into straightforward sub-sections of meat, fish, vegetarian, cured meat, cheese, patatas (potato) and salad. Although it took us a while to choose what we wanted, we eventually remembered the beauty of tapas is you can just order more as you go along – something not so easy to do in other cuisines. We ordered a bottle of Codorniu Cava, a dry and refreshing bubbly. As well as beer on taps and a selection of spirits, there is also a small, but good value list of cocktails and mocktails.
To start with we ordered bread, olives and aioli. The bread was locally sourced sourdough which was light and tasty – perfect as you never want to eat heavy bread which will fill you up before your mains arrive. The aioli was really good, with the garlic a more subtle flavour than other aiolis I’ve eaten so less detrimental to your breath! We ordered roughly 3 tapas per person to be shared amongst us, as well as the vegetarian platter (briam, pisto empanadilla, manchego & quince, marinated peppers & feta, olives, fine bean, shallot salad, salmorejo and freshly baked local bread). Among my favourite dishes were the sautéed king prawns, marinated in garlic, olive and lemon. They come in their shells so be prepared to make some effort for your food, but were cooked to perfection and were really delicious. The patatas bravas were good, with the spice milder than usual which I actually prefer. The meatballs in a rosemary tomato fritada also went down well with the group. Overall, the experience was good. The service was friendly and the restaurant was a lot more relaxed venue than most. After our meal, we ended up staying to drink another bottle. The food was tasty, well cooked and very good value. I’ll definitely be back.
- Donde, 37–39 Honor Oak Park, Honor Oak, SE23 1DZ. Nearest train: Honor Oak (overground and National Rail). For more information, visit the Donde website.
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