Bermondsey Street is a breeding ground for stellar restaurants. One need only look to Jose, Café Murano and Flour & Grape up the road for the players that are setting the bar. Baccala is certainly worthy of its place here, an intimate modern Italian restaurant and wine bar with a focus on fish and seafood, stellar Italian wines and artisan extra virgin olive oils. Its offering is familiar enough to draw a crowd – everyone loves Italian food - but niche enough to get people to stay.
Spanning two cosy floors with a ground-level bar, the décor balances modern and traditional elements, with chalkboard menus, a well-stocked wine rack behind the bar and clean spotlights which illuminate the dining room’s muted tones.
Just like the wine, extra virgin olive oil is treated with the utmost respect. It's a technique that opened our eyes to its nuances and distinctions: one was mellow, yellow and fruity, while another was verdant green and a little bitter. Elsewhere, a clever dish of cod puree, made simply by whipping salted cod with olive oil, was presented with artistic flair, alongside meaty mussels, borlotti beans and shard-like crispbreads. These are unique dishes, and for the most part succeed in execution. A plate of prawn linguine enveloped in a sweet, peppery butter had bite and addictiveness. Not quite so astounding was a main of baby octopus which, although tasted perfectly fine, was a little tough. A hefty slab of tiramisu, however, hit all the right notes: light, boozy and dusted heavily with cocoa.
This is very nice food, but what really takes the dining experience up a notch is its wine selection. If you’re a novice and find lots of choice disconcerting, sommelier and co-owner Fabio is a fountain of knowledge and able to recommend fantastic pairings with every course. Or at least, everything we drank was delicious.
Our meal came to £60 a head before wine which, to us, places it predominantly in special occasion territory. Still, a combination of innovative dishes, delicious wines and a passionate team make it well worth a stop any day of the week.