This place had me at the Village Fountain – a beer font rigged up to a keg of cocktail, a summer experiment I approve of.
A friend of mine, we’ll call her Cocktail Girl, is new to Bermondsey and lucky enough to stroll through the lush Bermondsey Street – with its uber cool continental cafes, delis and shabby chic local pubs – on her daily grind. So it was only a matter of time – following a couple of lustful weeks gazing from the outside she wanted in.
And so she made a purely superficial decision: “These four places look pretty”, and I was given the honour of narrowing it down to one. Village Fountain you lured me in… now what’s on the inside?
Our night in Village East of Bermondsey was a sophisticated affair, a cocktail sandwich if you like. It all started with a journey on the Orient Express: lured by lychee liqueur and ginger ale (a summer love of mine that is becoming a little obsessive), this cocktail was rounded off with sprigs of mint, Frangelico, lime and fresh ginger. Meanwhile Cocktail Girl had her eye on a Honey Rose Fizz, I mean what else? A raspberry, rose and vodka concoction topped with prosecco – fit for social butterflies. And the night ended with a bitter and twisted espresso martini…
But what was the sandwich filling I hear you cry? Summer is the season of seafood, and a meal of crab awaited – the prettiest crab burger you’ll ever set your eyes on, decked with lime and coriander sambal.
Ok so the beautiful, blue floral William Morris-esque plate did a lot of the talking… you may say it dressed up a rather brash, crispy, wild crab burger affair – but this lovely juxtaposition reflects the mood of the whole restaurant: elegant and refined, yet rustic and authentic.
Those of you who know me, know that I have a soft spot for old stuff: rehashed, reformed, reclaimed, upcycled rubbish – can’t get enough of it. Give me a warehouse any day. Fill it with retro, antique reincarnated junk and I am in heaven.
Village East is strewn with the old, fantastically transformed into the new – for a new audience and a new purpose.
Imagine my squeal of delight when I sat on a lush, upcycled green, leather chair at my distressed wooden table, after a weary work day in a regulation work chair at regulation work desk (not a shabby chic bone in its body). Call me silly, but it’s these little touches: the exposed metal piping, the distressed booths, wood panelling, iron divides and steel drum lampshades that make Village East a foodie palace.
The variety on the menu means that carnivores and vegetarians will be equally content. Take the longhorn beef and bone marrow burger with truffled liver parfait; lamb meatballs with tomato ragu; and confit turkey leg with wild rice crispies alongside the quinoa kievs with spinach mozarella, coconut and sweetcorn salsa; the steamed mussels garnished with mint; or the pan fried coley with king prawn and herb crust, bok choi, chilli and shitake mushrooms.
We started with the caramelised onion bread – purely because we were intrigued. True to Village East form, arriving on a chunky bread board, warm from the oven, was a baby rustic loaf with delicate serving of dill butter – charming and gutsy rolled into one.
And as we lounged in our armchairs, already reminiscing over our floral crab baps, sipping the dregs of our espresso martinis, we couldn’t help thinking that pretty restaurants can have brains, as well as beauty.
Village East of Bermondsey |171-173 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW
For more information go to villageeast.co.uk