Resident foodie Lucy Shaw heads to Leandro Carreira’s solo venture, Londrino in London Bridge, for Madeira-laced red prawns, silky octopus, and grilled brioche drenched in caramel.
The concept: Londrino is the hotly anticipated debut London venture of Leiria born Leandro Carreira, who cut his teeth in Lisbon kitchens before moving to the two Michelin star Mugaritz in the Basque Country to work under Andoni Aduriz.
Moving to London, Carreira went on to become head chef at Nuno Mendes’ experimental modern Portuguese restaurant, Viajante, at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, and more recently worked at hipster foodie favourite Lyle’s in Shoreditch.
Last December Carreira struck out with his own project – Londrino – tucked away down a quiet side street called Snowfields in London Bridge, where he serves an ever-evolving menu of sharing plates that interpret Portuguese cuisine through a London lens.
The décor: Londrino is a light, cavernous space framed by an open kitchen that mixes a pared down Scandi aesthetic with industrial décor.
The tiled floor has a wholesome honeycomb pattern, wooden chairs are simple and comfortable, while concrete walls add grit to the Scandi softness and Portuguese tiles tip their hat to Carreira’s roots.
At each place setting is a leather pouch filled with heavy-duty cutlery catering to every conceivable culinary scenario.
We were sat underneath a curious chandelier crafted from a De Havilland Goblin turbojet engine – one of only three in existence – which aviation geeks would go wild for. Having clocked the weighty installation above my head, I couldn’t help but imagine my certain death if it fell from its hook.
The food: Leandro’s stints at Mugaritz and Viajante are evident in his minimalist, technically brilliant cuisine that shines a light on trendy techniques like curing, pickling, smoking and fermenting.
Portions are small but perfectly formed and his aesthetic is so stripped back it seems to pay homage to the beautiful simplicity of Japanese cuisine, particularly given Carreira’s focus on fish.
Dishes are designed to be shared and range from £3.50 to £25. My summery starter of fresh peas and sorrel tasted like a symphony of green and came blanketed by gossamer-thin layers of salty pancetta.
A bowl of silky red prawns and discs of raw turnip came swimming in a rich, bouillabaisse-like Madeira sauce that complemented rather than overpowered the delicate flavour of the shrimp.
Signature dishes: No trip to Londrino would be complete without tying Leandro’s signature octopus served with a red pepper miso and crunchy ribbons of kohlrabi. Formed of a perfect purple tentacle curling around the plate, I had the best octopus of my life at Francis Mallmann’s 1884 in Mendoza, but this came close.
Keen to try it naked, as a solo at if offered the softest, silkiest of textures and the wonderful meatiness you get from octopus. When paired with the red pepper miso, it came alive with a wonderful savoury tang that had a whisper of heat reminiscent of buffalo sauce.
Another must try is the ‘toffee’ mayo, a delightful dipping sauce for spears of crunchy white and green asparagus. It sounds like a madcap combination, but the sweet mayo was flecked in flakes of salt, giving it an appealing savoury burnt toffee twist.
The sauce itself was one of the most delicious things I’ve put in my mouth all year – I could have happily eaten a gallon of it.
The drinks: The bar offers a selection of snacks, including crispy pig’s ears and a steak sarnie in a brioche bun with cultured butter and Portuguese mustard for just £2 until they’re all snaffled up.
From Tuesday to Saturday from 5-7pm the somms serve a selection of wines by the glass for a fiver. But before you hit the wine, it’s worth trying a cocktail. My refreshing apéritif blended Earl Grey infused gin, mandarin syrup, lemon juice and a Portuguese sparkler made by Filipa Pato.
Her name came up again later on in the meal when Stefano, our charming Italian sommelier, paired her luscious Nossa Calcario 2016 white made from the Bical grape with the red prawns in Madeira dish. Golden, rich, creamy and mineral, it tasted like a top white Burgundy.
The incisive wine list shines a light on small producers, mainly from Spain and Portugal.
Moving onto the reds, Stefano poured us a pair of wines made from the same grape – Mencía – with dramatically different personalities. One was light, bright and enchanting, the other dark, brooding and black-fruited – both were delicious.
Who to know: Wine nuts should seek out Stefano and get him to recommend something from the list – you’re in safe hands with him. It’s also worth asking for Max, our ebullient Antipodean, waiter who dealt with even our finickiest of requests with grace and good humour.
Don’t leave without: Dessert. And one dessert in particular – the grilled brioche, sour caramel and hazelnuts – a pud so popular Carreira daren’t take it off the menu.
While the portions at Londrino veer on the small side, this is a beast of a sweet. Formed of doorstopper thick slices of brioche oozing with sticky sweet caramel sauce, topped with enough hazelnuts to make a squirrel rapturous and a generous dollop of cream, I was defeated by the third slice but my courageous companion bravely battled on until the last bite of his.
Last word: Londrino is a charming addition to London Bridge’s increasingly impressive dining scene. The food has technical flair and is beautifully presented. Those seeking a filling feed should look elsewhere, as Carreira’s pared down culinary approach, save for the brioche pud, won’t satiate a rumbling tummy.
My concern for Londrino is its size. For such a refined restaurant it’s housed in a giant space, which, given its off the beaten track location, must be hard to fill. The food at Londrino is Michelin star quality, I just hope it doesn’t suffer from its generous proportions, as it seems far more suited to a smaller space.
Londrino, 36 Snowfields, London SE1 3SU; Tel: +44 (0)20 3911 4949
To read the Wine List Confidential review click here