You never really say “ah, I fancy, um, Portuguese cuisine tonight” do you? Instead we opt for things more along the lines of Chinese, Italian or perhaps Vegan what with the changing of the times. And yet perhaps a visit to Londrino would change up that thought process. The Portugese word for Londoner is, in fact, Londrino – so no, they’ve haven’t just decided to get all flamboyant with the name but have instead catered the title to the every-day Londoner. Headed up by chef Leandro Carreira, the London Bridge spot plays with flavours and meets, at points, the influence of Japanese cuisine; imaginative dishes reminiscent of Leandro’s experiences being the result. If you’re in to the whole minimalism thing you’ll adore Londrino’s interior. It felt like what I can only imagine walking into the way of “living Lagom” would feel like, with certain industrial vibes, perhaps due to the grey washed walls and open space. However this didn’t emanate a coldness, as the restaurant was heated up by the bustle of the open kitchen and the radiation of chatter in a restaurant that clearly doesn’t have a problem attracting intrigued diners. Londrino opened in 2017 and seems to have become rather a staple go-to in Snowsfields Yard where it resides.
If you don’t speak Portuguese then you’re in for a bit of a bumpy ride. Scattered with words relevant to the country, our server was more than efficient when it came to translating, plus I walked away somewhat wiser and convinced, after a dabble with Prosecco, that I was in fact fluent in the language. The menu takes on a small plate format, with prices illustrating portions. We were told to opt for around six dishes between two, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and next time I’d go for more.
Sourdough and cultured butter was polished off a treat. I’d really missed good old classic bread and butter at the start of a meal – is it dwindling out? Or maybe it’s just the restaurants I’m eating at! Either way, Londrino delivered the goods. Onto the rest, we shared (as instructed) the confit radish with squash and walnut oil and the roast chestnut, hen of the woods and kale. Both were sumptuous; perhaps a little on the small side but let’s blame that on my appetite. Moving on, we shared a sea bream with cedro lemon and chervil alongside the Ashburton duck with vanilla and crispy rice. The duck came up trumps; the pieces were succulent and complimented by the vanilla, and the crispy rice which took on the appearance of a taco was a valued touch. Definitely get the broccoli and lardo on the side, it complimented our dishes and was rich in flavour.
The highlight? The deserts. Which is a bold statement coming from me as a “not a dessert” person. The caramel and buttermilk solids ice cream tasted just as ice-cream should, with a thick and creamy texture and no over-bearing sickly flavouring. The grilled brioche was also delicious with sprinklings of hazelnut and doused in a delightful sour caramel. Pudding is a must!
For drinks we stuck to Prosecco; a bottle of the Portugese Vadio, Bruto, Bairrada. It was one of the best I’d had, and from someone who’d opt for bubbles morning, noon and night, I guess that’s saying something? The drinks list is wholesome, with a wine bar sitting snug in the restaurant featuring a regularly changing menu of Pesticos ‘snacks’ for light meals and grazing and an extensive wine list and inviting cocktail menu.
Over all this was a hugely positive experience. It’s the type of place you can get carried away chatting over small plates and topped up glasses. The food comes out spontaneously and over the course of the night so there’s isn’t a feeling of being rushed to sit more bums on seats, but instead there’s a focus on the current diners feeling comfortable, and at home. Really one for the Londoners, Portugal has found a cosy place to nest in the heart of our city.
Londrino can be found at 36 Snowfields, Southwark, SE1 3SU, www.londrino.co.uk