“That’s quite continental”
I was told recently that when I say “the continent” it ages me into a Brexit-voting, Clarkson-loving, red trouser-wearing old man. And only one of those things is true. But for once, there’s legitimate reason to refer to “the continent” and that’s because of the latest restaurant from the Hope & Anchor Group.
Stockwell Continental is an Italian two doors down from the formiddable Canton Arms. The bar stretches down on one side, and the open kitchen behind it. It’s surprisingly light. Roof aside, you picture yourself in a courtyard, a stream nearby and the thick Roman walls protecting you from a mid-August sun. Negroni seems to be on tap, and quaffable but still richly textured Sicilian white is available by the glass. The menu features pizza and antipasti. To our right large hangover groups scoff down pizzas. To our left ladies who lunch dig into a constrained single antipasti and glass each. Now, that’s continental.
We avoid the pizza. We can eat pizza everywhere. And actually I’m beginning to think that after Radio Alice I don’t even really enjoy any other pizza. I’m even getting a bit bored of the famous franco.
So we peruse the antipasti menu. Part of me wants to go all in and go for everything on it.
There are some standout dishes in here. The tropea onions and salmoriglio (£6) dish reminds me of the Spanish calçot: it’s brilliantly sweet and chargrilled to perfection. The chicken liver crostini (£7) is rich and generous. And the proscuitto too is melt-in-your-mouth, nutty, savouriness – however the portion sizes feel stingy for £7. For dessert, we each had an affogato (£4.20), which was exactly the sort of price you should pay for such simple bliss.
Things aren’t so good elsewhere. We have to ask where our Romanesco broccoli is after a ten minute wait between final two plates. Minutes later it comes whizzing back without any broccoli on the plate. “Sometimes there’s more brocolli than other times,” the waiter jokes without any sense of irony. He must mean in the restaurant, because there’s none at all in our dish. The mixed herb grain salad that is presented is nice, but lacking the big warming crunch we were expecting.
This response of the waiter to our questioning (a) where the dish was and (b) why there was no broccoli, reflected the only problem with Stockwell Continental. The service here is lax. It’s hard to tell whether that’s by continental design or a teething problem with only being a month or two open. We had to really make ourselves known for each interaction with the waiter. I’m not asking to be bugged every few minutes to see if the foods alright. But I do want be asked if I want another glass of wine when the glasses on the table have been empty for five minutes.
All this said, you forgive a lot when if it’s continental. With ultra non-pushy service comes a very relaxed environment. One of the elusive ones where you’d be equally comfortable having dinner with a parent, as you would drunk and loud with a large group of friends. The broccoli problem aside, the food here is very good and overall, quite reasonably priced. The wine list is short but highlights some of the less familiar grapes like the red rofosco or alicante, or the white grillo or cattarato.
Stockwell Continental is another excellent addition to the south London eating list. Now that we’re that bit further afield from Vauxhall it might not become a regular haunt. But the capacity of the restaurant means that with larger groups, you’d do well for the food quality : price ratio. (Plus afterwards you can settle in for a session next door at what is probably my favourite pub in London.)
All in all, it’s another good addition to the Anchor & Hope group. Where continental doesn’t just mean a place of relaxed service, but one of great food, a place to come together and conviviality.