SquareMeal Review of Legare
No country handles the joyous comfort of carbohydrate more expertly than Italy. Legare – which means to bind or tie – appreciates the seductive appeal of this by working to be a neighbourhood Italian restaurant that serves up a concise selection of small plates and pasta to earn diners’ undying loyalty.
The neighbourhood spiel might seem like a stretch for any restaurant sitting in the shadows of Tower Bridge, but somehow Legare feels like it could slip into becoming your local very easily, no matter where you live. The small space is cool and functional, all whitewashed brick walls, flagstone floors and clean wooden bench seating with an open kitchen stretching down one side. It might sound clinical, but the low ceilings and curved warehouse-style windows make it feel cosy.
Headed up by co-owner and ex-Barrafina manager Jay Patel, the trendy skinny-jean-and-Breton-clad staff at Legare seem genuinely invested in the diner’s experience while in their care and do their best to alleviate any tension caused by the handful of closely packed tables.
The seasonally led menu features carefully sourced, British ingredients and lines them up in a precise, confident menu. Chewy, robust sourdough comes first, with salted, bitter olive oil, followed by raw scallops with a grassy dressing and the spike of lemon, finely cut green onions and espelette pepper. A comforting bowl of warm beans and cuttlefish is brought to life with a brilliantly restrained addition of garlic.
Having perfected his pasta craft at Trullo, chef co-owner Matt Beardmore turns out hearty bowls that combine just a few key flavours. Taglierini with an umami anchovy butter was piqued with the gentle warmth of chilli and topped with the crunch of pangritata, while the fat in a fennel sausage pappardelle was tempered with cavolo nero, which felt indulgent, if a little too al-dente for our taste.
A carefully curated wine list built up from small producers completes the trifecta of good food, drinks and service for a winning combination we’d happily return for week after week.
Located a brisk walk from London Bridge station and right by Tower Bridge, Legare (pronounced ‘le-ga-re’) is a casual Italian which focuses on seasonal ingredients and fresh pasta. Legare is the first solo restaurant from Jay Patel (previously general manager at Barrafina Adelaide Street) and young chef Matt Beardmore, who was previously senior sous chef at Highbury’s Trullo.
Despite its central location, Legare touts itself as a neighbourhood restaurant and this more homely approach to dining is evident on the restaurant’s menu. Legare’s food offering consists of a specials board featuring experimental seasonal dishes, alongside a short and regularly changing list of antipasti and fresh pasta dishes, with all of the pasta made daily by hand and in-house.
Dishes to look out for include the tempting likes of tajarin with ‘burro e salvia’ (butter and sage), as well as semolina-based pastas from southern Italy such as orecchiette with fennel sausage and Swiss chard ragu.
Before the main event, you can tuck into antipasti options including fett’unta of goats’ curd and sobrasada, and a daily crudo offering which is dictated by day-boat fishing and seasonal oysters. To round off your meal, indulge in a homemade cannoli for dessert, which arrives stuffed with seasonal fillings.
The restaurant takes provenance seriously, using only a handful of thoughtfully considered suppliers. These include the acclaimed likes of Neal’s Yard Dairy, The Ham & Cheese Company and Kernow Sashimi.
Legare’s wine list features natural, low-intervention bottles from small producers, with a particular focus on wines from Italy and its neighbouring countries. Customers can also buy some of the available wines to take home, alongside other produce such as olives sourced from across Sicily, Croatia and the wider Mediterranean.
The interiors meanwhile feature pastel-washed walls which draw their inspiration from modern-day Italian cafes, while a clever layout allows for solo diners, as well as those in pairs and small groups.
Images: Jamie Orlando Smith and Hanna Benjamin