Bellenden Road has always been a Mecca for great food. Just down the road, you’ll see Artusi, Made of Dough and Begging Bowl - all big-hitters. Yet the vastly more affordable Uva has quietly slipped into the ranks, offering up petiscos (Portuguese tapas) to the people of Peckham.
Well-balanced espresso martinis start the proceedings, neither too sweet nor too bitter. From there, we opt to spice up our bread and oil with something fiery. A plump, juicy, sizzling chorizo arrives in a terracotta boat of flames, not unlike a Viking funeral. It’s so heavenly we almost order it again, but soon the jovial staff replace the ebbed flames with new delights.
Tentacles of perfectly chargrilled octopus follow, their salty char mediated by silky veg puree and zingy salsa verde. Here, each ingredient is allowed its time to shine. Piexinhos da Horta, the Portuguese ancestor of tempura, this week features seasonal asparagus. With a generous blob of black pepper aioli, it’s simplicity at its best.
Or perhaps second-best, we realise, as Uva’s signature dish arrives: Flock and Herd ribeye, served rare, on a scorching plinth for optional further cooking. As the tender meat’s juices mingle with the garlic butter for dipping, we decide this is simplicity at its best. Or maybe the expertly mixed, ultra-fresh caipirinha is…
For one last hit of authenticity, we end on ginginja. Rarely seen outside Portugal, this sour cherry liqueur is served in a shot glass of chocolate. You can sip then eat, shoot then eat or even do it all in one go - the choice is yours. Regardless, it’s a lovely note to finish on.
It’s so rare to find a hidden gem, yet Uva really does feel like one. It’s a haven of soft guitar music and even softer sea-green banquettes, where you can feast on petiscos until the sun goes down.