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The Bar Necessities: Tavolino

Tavolino brings Milanese coffee houses and the Trattorias of Florence to London Bridge. If there's a London Mafia they probably eat here... 

It’s bright, openly-spaced, sophisticated. At night it glimmers like a star. If there’s a London Mafia, I’m sure they meet here (maybe keep an eye out when you go).

Its ebullience is a pleasant contrast to the view from the first floor; dark London bridge and accompanying river. You feel safe and in good company (despite the mafia thing). There’s a warmth that comes with the food and service, or it could just be Italian hospitality. Either way, we’re chuffed.

The interiors are slick as heck. On the ground floor, the bar lights up like a smile. Its appeal doesn’t lie in the dark and dim-lit 1960s spy vibe. It’s more charming than that. There’s little mystery here, and this is no bad thing.

Tavolino sings to you; it’s identifiable, reminding you of Milanese coffee houses and the Trattorias of Florence. The essence of a cosmopolitan Italy and all the charm of speakeasy 1950s Italian dining comes bursting to life. Tavolino speaks without speaking. Shiny but humble, I’ll say.

What's the story?

Tavolino only opened last year, but its energy says we’ve been here for years. And if it feels familiar, then you probably ate at Bancone, where head chef Louis Korovilas previously held the same title (2018-19).

Tavolino means “little table” in Italian, which is strange; there’s nothing small about this place. It’s expansive and fun. Despite the hearty reception, there’s no home-cooking or loving Italian mother vibes. It’s gastronomic professionalism meets retro jazz blues.

What to drink?

The drinks menu is two measures each humble and homely. Sophistication is squeezed in after.

Try the Prugna Frizzante (Akashi-Tai plum sake, white grape and apricot soda, prosecco). It contains plum pieces (don’t be a klutz and try to pick them out. It’s not a good look). The Triple Orange G&T is a pretty twist on a simple classic. They go down easy, so it makes over-indulgence a problemo.

For red, go for the A Mano, Susumaniello, Puglia. And the Livio Felluga, Sauvignon, Colli Orientali, for white.

Definitely get the Rum Treacle liquid pudding. Great way to tidy up.

What to eat?

The bread is moreish as hell, so you’re gonna wanna keep those teeth gritted. We recommend a muzzle (just until you get to the mains). The focaccia is lightly salted; texture of sponge and fluffiness of a feather pillow. Then there’s a cinnabun-style bread. It’s soft and cake-like, soaking up the aperitifs pretty well.

The Zucchini Friti is as dazzling as it sounds. The crunch is paradisaical. Then you have the silk handkerchiefs, walnut butter and confit Burford Brown yolk. When this arrives you won’t want to eat it. It’s like slashing an original Pollock after it’s just been painted. The yolk sits on its throne of pasta, washed over with olive-oil brushed-and-roasted walnuts. It tastes truly gorgeous.

We also tried the lamb. It’s accompanied with charred chicory and sweet and sour shallots; cooked just right and goes perfectly with the A Mano. We’d also recommend the scallop bucatini, if somehow the above doesn’t appeal to you.

If you savoured, you’ll have a bit of room. You’ll want the Fig leaf ice cream with goat’s curd chantilly and almond crumb. It mops up well.

Will it bankrupt me?

If you give it a chance, it’ll have a crack. But a bit of self-control will go a long way. Plus, it’s not necessary to over-indulge. The plates are small but hearty, packed with everything you need.

The food is pretty reasonable. Starters don’t surpass £6 and the mains don’t go over £20. The drinks will light the biggest pocket-fire. Not because they’re particularly expensive (aperitifs are £8-10) but because they’re so damn good, you can’t help but re-fill.

Beer is in the £3-5 range so we’re all good there. Wine ranges from £20-200 a bottle so hey, something for everyone. Balance your open-mind with a healthy bit of restraint and you’ll leave happy.

Anything else to note? 

There’s outdoor seating, which looked pretty but it being November, we were happy to sit inside. Either way, try your best to get upstairs and get a window seat overlooking London bridge. You can email us thanks after.

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For more info, see Tavolino

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