Cucina is Italian with a ‘casalinga’ flavour and much more
By John Whelan
Cucina Café Bar & Restaurant
3J & 3K Belvedere Road
London SE1 7GQ
Telephone: 020 7921 9352
Cucina Café Bar & Restaurant is a classic Italian trattoria with a different ambience and style to its next-door neighbour, Troia, on Belvedere Road. It’s situated in the shadow of the London Eye and only metres from the South Bank. Cucina caters for a clientele who are looking for a pre-theatre meal or a late-night post-theatre date, as it is open until 11.30pm Mondays to Saturdays (and closes at a respectable 10.30pm on Sundays).
For the youngsters, however, Cucina is also a child-friendly restaurant, with an excellent kids’ menu, and it’s only metres away from the new Shrek’s Adventure, an immersive and interactive walkthrough experience. I took my son-in-law’s retired parents, both former teachers, to Cucina and we enjoyed a fantastic dining experience with background music – modern and classical – that was not overpowering so we could catch up on family events while relaxing. My guests relished the menu options, commenting that you can’t experience anything like Cucina in Bristol where they live. The restaurant opens for breakfast at 8am, Mondays to Saturdays (and an hour later on Sundays), which means it offers an alternative to hotel fare for anyone staying locally; my guests’ two-day visit to London had them staying at a hotel across the road from Cucina.
Some recent comments from diners at Cucina included how welcome it is to have a change from the franchised restaurants that line our streets and praised the outstanding seafood risotto among other dishes. Cucina’s owner is Ibrahim Dogus, a highly successful restauranteur who is also an activist and philanthropist; he places an emphasis on friendly and attentive customer service at all his restaurants as well as high-quality cuisine.
Cucina has a peaceful ambience with Italianate pictures lining the walls, including photographs of scenes from The Godfather featuring Al Pacino. It is easily accessible by public transport and just twelve minutes’ walk in one direction from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster tube station, and Waterloo station in the other.
The cuisine is unashamedly Italian but there are other menu options including burgers, steak and fish. There is a good range of antipasti, pizza and pasta, including lasagne and cannelloni. The wine list is well sourced, with an emphasis on Italy but also including New World labels, as well as a special beer, Bira London, which Dogus serves in his restaurants and describes as the ‘first ever beer for kebabs’. It works well with pizzas, too!