Hailed as a 100-cover restaurant, bar, brunch and study spot (it offers workspace membership on weekdays), we’re often hesitant about places that try to be everything all at once - stick to what you know and all that. What did fill us with confidence, however, is Carmine’s promising kitchen credentials with head chef Ozzy Martin Pier (previously Peckham Cellars and The Ivy) at the fore.
Indeed, the brasserie-style menu reads well, offering a selection of bar snacks, small and large plates, plus a single dessert option (if it’s good, why offer more?). High notes included a plate of rotund butternut squash arancini paired alongside punchy tartare sauce (surprising, but it worked) and dusted with finely grated Parmesan. While from the main plates, pan-fried sea bream with sautéed potatoes and a tangle of pickled shallots, olives and tomatoes was simple and balanced. All was washed down with a very drinkable, medium-bodied Spanish red, amongst a list that champions natural and low-intervention wines.
There were a few stumbles along the way: a couple of ingredients were ‘out of stock’, so to speak, the fries (although served alongside a well-cooked steak) were over-salted and the pastry on the chocolate tart was soft, rather than crisp and short. It was the only option from the dessert menu, so perhaps another choice was needed in the end.
The vast space offers various styles of seating – booths, counter side and tables – to match its multifaceted dining options, while the spacious area is decked in dark mahogany tones, yellow booth seating and green tiled walls to bring a trendy New York bar vibe to Streatham high street.
Dishes are comfortably priced to the extent that you don’t feel the need to tot up the cost as you go (usually a hindrance when it comes to small plates). We visited on a Tuesday when attendance was a little sparse, but we reckon it’s a place that would really come into its own for big groups on weekends. In fact, we’re already eyeing up its Sunday roast offering.