Florentine

Florentine – a new all-day dining restaurant and bar minutes from Waterloo, that serves eggs (and other brunch-style dishes) all day. Any place that recognises the godliness of brunch (and therefore the need for it to be available all day, every day) is instantly off to a great start in my mind, but add a huge mix of British/Italian classics including flatbreads in the most incredible flavour combinations and melt in the mouth meats and you have an absolutely winning menu!

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Before food though, the place itself – it’s beautiful. Floor to ceiling windows surround the place and once inside it’s incredibly modern with a stylish interior she a lovely bar area. The whole place is so shiny and new that you could be forgiven for thinking it opened yesterday.. or that the sleek black toilet door was actually part of the wall (wonder who could’ve made that mistake….). The kitchen is open and there was even live music on the evening that we went which provided a beautifully relaxed vibe. The waiters and waitresses are impossibly well trained – polite, friendly and attentive, invisible until you need them then there to top up your glass and cater to your every need should you so much as glance up from your food.

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As soon as we sat down we were brought bread and olives. The olives were sitting in a lovely lemon oil, and since Marcus doesn’t like olives they were all left to me. I know this will be highly controversial and any food lover will probably slate me for saying this but I prefer olives de-stoned and stuffed. Stuffed with garlic, peppers, chillis, anything, but to me olives with stones (which I know is the proper way to eat them with maximum flavour bla bla) just don’t taste as good! The bread (like I could ever say anything bad about bread!) was heavenly. It was a rustic loaf sliced and warmed in their giant ovens, served warm in a crock pot and drizzled generously with olive oil, rosemary and coarse sea salt – the perfect combination! It came on tap too – as soon as we finished it they were there with another, delayed only by the need to warm it up first; dangerous when you’re as bread obsessed as we are!

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For starters I went for the squid. I got a mix of white squid and the thinner tentacles, all of which were incredibly crispy, fried in a light batter and seasoned very heavily (in a good way!) with sea salt. Served simply with a lemon wedge and lemon mayo it was a classic example of a simple dish done perfectly. Marcus went for the sweet potato soup. That too was delicious. Although he hates squid he insisted that I shared the soup and I definitely dipped more than my fair share of bread in there – it was so creamy and smooth! If I’m being fussy it could have perhaps had a touch more salt to even out the sweetness (possibly not a fair comment – sweet potato soup tasting sweet!? Shocker!) but it was a good soup and Marcus loved it.

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For mains we shared the sea bass and the lamb shank. I usually never go for lamb but Marcus has really got me into lamb shank – when it’s cooked well it’s just so soft and delicious.. and this was exactly that. It was seasoned well and was literally falling off the bone, drowned in an incredibly thick and flavour-packed jus and sitting on a bed of mash. A king size bed to be precise – it was an absolute mountain!!

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For me there’s no better match than mash for a lamb shank, especially when it’s as creamy, buttery and smooth as this one was.. despite the lamb being melt-in-the-mouth good the mash was as much a star of the dish.

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We also got a flatbread to share. Every single flavour sounded absolutely divine (spinach, goats cheese & tahini, wild mushrooms, ricotta & truffle and Tuscan sausages all feature!) but after much deliberation Marcus let me choose and I chose the aubergine, tomato and smoked burrata . In hindsight a very selfish choice as he hates aubergine but we had plenty of baskets of bread to go round so he was happy enough! The smoked burrata was incredible – I love smokey flavours and with burrata being an otherwise soft and mild cheese it was perfect. The flatbread was (predictably, but no less disappointingly) thin and crispy (as opposed to my apparently less popular preference of thick and fluffy), but the dish was a whole was delicious nonetheless. Size wise it wasn’t miles off a second main but no regrets – it was amazing!

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After enough bread to feed a small village, a big work lunch out and a huge slab of Kontidor & Cook cake (chocolate noisette – I can’t resist putting a picture of it below – it’s so good!) earlier that afternoon I was absolutely stuffed. But when do I ever turn down dessert!? And are you even a blogger if you don’t get two!? 😉

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To be fair their dessert menu was not a good one for me. Whilst people seem to absolutely love tiramisu, panna cotta and creme brûlée I don’t like any of them! A combination of their textures and flavours leaves me disappointed when the dessert menu takes a more European theme and I was disappointed to see no chocolate on there but by process of elimination  went for Cheesecake. With a second dessert of ice cream, obviously. Does ice cream even count as a second dessert!? 😛

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My disappointment about the lack of chocolate all but vanished when I was brought my desserts. In fact in hindsight I’m glad there was no chocolate as I wouldn’t even have given the cheesecake a second glance if there had been. It was beautiful. Looks wise and taste wise it ticked all the boxes. It honestly was the best cheesecake I’ve ever had – it was incredible. Admittedly I’m no cheesecake expert – I rarely ever get it, and had there been more choice on the dessert menu I wouldn’t have, but it’s hard to imagine a more perfect creation. (Sorry for the fuzzy picture.. clearly too excited to eat it!)

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A generous heap of soft, stewed blueberries came sitting in a sweet compote on top of the cheesecake itself. The cheesecake topping was ridiculously smooth, rich, creamy and indulgent, with little specks of vanilla dotted throughout.  The base brought the whole thing together perfectly – it was so crunchy and buttery that I could’ve eaten ten. The whole thing was beautifully balanced; sweet yet sharp blueberries, a strong hit of vanilla and an incredibly indulgent texture and flavour without being overpoweringly sweet.

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The ice cream was served in a frosted bowl; one of those little touches that makes all the difference in my opinion. I went for two chocolate and one vanilla, and it was all fun and games until I’d demolished all three scoops of it in five seconds flat and my sporadic mild dairy intolerance (I’m assuming it was that, or possibly just sheer volume of food!) reared its ugly head and I was in agony all the way home. It was so worth it though – I’d do it all again in a heartbeat for that cheesecake.

Link to their website: http://florentinerestaurant.co.uk

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