Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cantina del Ponte

Until last June, my attitude to children was - how can I put this - less than tolerant. While broadly appreciating the necessity of ensuring the continuation of the human race, I was very much of the view that infants should be neither seen nor heard, packed away to giant boarding-schools-cum-detention centres until the age of sixteen and only released into society when, or indeed if, they could demonstrate sociability, courtesy and calm.

And then, as many readers will know, I became an uncle and fell so besottedly in love with my baby nephew that I went overnight from making Herod seem like a role-model for responsible childcare to being a modern-day male Mary Poppins but with a better holdall. Thus it was that when a press release arrived inviting me to try out D&D London's smart South Bank Italian Cantina del Ponte's new family menu, instead of filing it under 'A' for "Are you out of your tiny mind?" as I would have done pre-unclehood, I accepted on the condition that I could experience it properly - with a child in tow. 

The young man who kindly agreed to come along and help me was my three-year-old godson Oscar and his mummy, my old uni pal Kate. A discerning but joyfully unfussy eater, Oscar would be the perfect dining companion for any occasion, but being the target market was particularly well-suited to this particular task.

Cantina del Ponte's family offering is  - from what little I know of such things - authentically Italian in both style and content, inasmuch as the whole family share an ample selection of starters, choose their own main courses (with only-slightly-simplified versions of the grown-ups' dishes for the little ones) and then share desserts.
Kids, Kate told me, like the sense of inclusion of having the same thing as their parents, and Oscar certainly seemed willing to try some things that wouldn't usually form part of his culinary repertoire. 

To start we were brought a generous selection of salumi, tomato bruschetta and burrata with chargrilled vegetables and a balsamic reduction. The salumi included prosciutto (which proved to be Oscar's favourite) and some silky porchetta (mine) as well as sweet mortadella and salami. It was all thoughtfully chosen so as not to be too salty or, as salami can be, spicy for children's palates while still being tasty enough for adults to enjoy, as Kate and I did. 

The bruschetta were good, using vividly fresh tomatoes, although the unmentioned inclusion of celery, to which I am violently averse, annoyed me somewhat. Best of the lot, albeit the only item Oscar couldn't be persuaded to try (his loss) was the burrata; perfectly milky in the middle, set to soft folds on the outside, its cool blandness was cleverly complemented by the smoky vegetables and sticky, tart reduction.

For his main course Oscar was offered the chance to top his own pizza which would then be taken away and baked; I thought this sounded like great fun (even knocking 36 years old I've still to grow out of playing with my food) but instead Little O chose spaghetti in tomato sauce which - as you'll see - he liked very much. 

Kate's Parmesan risotto looked, from my side of the table, a little dull, but she enjoyed it describing it as 'creamy and cheesy - all you could want really'. My beef stew with mushrooms and potato gratin was, I thought, the better dish, the meat beautifully tender, its wine-laced gravy thick and rich. Whether deliberate or not I'm unsure, but it struck me that both dishes were well-suited to being eaten with one hand while helping, or restraining, a child less dextrous or well-behaved than Oscar with the other.

After rather too long a wait, if not for the adults then definitely for a young man who'd finished both Little Miss Tiny and his Peppa Pig comic and was getting restless, the arrival of  our trio of desserts was very welcome. If the inclusion of tiramisu, containing not-really-child-friendly Marsala wine, was something of a bad move, it was made up for by the coupe of splendid strawberry ice-cream and blackberry sorbet and a pert raspberry panna cotta.

Service, excepting the slightly extended gaps between courses, was professional and just formal enough to match the chic seriousness of the room without feeling stiff. Oscar was, quite rightly, the centre of everyone's attentions and I was greatly impressed that all the staff who attended to our table at any point knew his name - a lovely touch.

For the quantity and quality of the food and overall experience, the family menu represents excellent value at £22.50 a head for adults and kids 'paying their age' - with a carafe of crisp Trebbiano d'Abruzzo from the mostly-Italian list, our bill had there been one would have been around £75 including service for three - well, two-and-a-half.

Wanting Oscar to have the final word, I asked him to rate each course as 'yummy' or 'yuck'; Cantina del Ponte scored a perfect three 'yummys'. Never mind what I thought; if that's not all the recommendation you need, then I don't know what is.

Cantina del Ponte, 36c Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE Tel: 020 7403 5403 

Oscar was invited to review Cantina del Ponte. Kate and I merely tagged along.

Cantina Del Ponte on Urbanspoon

Square Meal


  1. What sort of child wouldn't want a Hugh for an uncle eh? Lovely review (psst, do you now do a babysitting service then?

    1. Bless you Danny, Not quite sure about babysitting yet thought; keeping them company is one thing, keeping them *alive* is quite another!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you kind sir! It was a really fun afternoon out so hopefully that's come across.

  3. Replies
    1. "There was one thing thought that his money could never buy. My pride."

  4. Bless you... Another bloody lovely bit of prose from Mr Wright. You sir, are a pleasure to read. Rich


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