La Cave, SE1 9QQ
La Cave was a small wine bar and restaurant near London Bridge Station. It has now closed.
The information below is retained for historical purposes.
Kake and Sarah visited on a Wednesday evening in June 2012, to try out the wine bar side after a couple of previous dinners in the restaurant area (see below). It was a nice day, so we sat outside to start with (to the sound of bellringing practice at nearby Southwark Cathedral), then moved inside when the place emptied out later in the evening. We had a few carafes of wine (they offer a fair few whites, reds, and roses by the 125ml glass, 500ml carafe, and 750ml bottle) as well as bar snacks. Tap water was brought swiftly on request, in a chilled bottle.
Our initial choices of the assiette de charcuteries Corses (Corsican ham plate, £7.50) photo and the five cheese plate (£8) photo were both good, and although we didn't take advantage of the option of selecting our own cheeses, we were pleased that our waitress made sure we knew it was a possibility. Unfortunately, our choices from the "delicate bites" section of the menu were less successful. Chilli shrimp accras (fritters; £5) photos were tiny, mushy, Iceland-esque, and ridiculously overpriced for the quality, at nearly £1 each. Foie gras on toast with passion fruit jelly (£8) photo was a little better, though the toast was both cold and soggy.
Previous visits went as follows:
Kake and doop visited on a Thursday evening in February 2008. We booked in advance - though only shortly after lunchtime, for an evening visit on the same day - and were glad we did, as the small dining room was full for most of the evening.
Service was friendly, and fairly well-practised. We let the sommelier choose our wine; he chose very well, and within the price range we specified. Tap water was provided without a murmur, and indeed most of the other tables seemed to be drinking it, though the jugs being brought around to refill everyone's glasses seemed quite few and far between, and our glasses sat empty for quite a while at the beginning of the evening.
Kake started with vanilla scallops with fennel and pink peppercorns (£6). The scallops were very competently cooked, well-browned on the outside and tender on the inside. The sauteed fennel was perhaps a bit on the rich side, but its sweetness worked well with the vanilla flavour of the scallops. doop had asparagus mousse with poppy seeds and salmon roe (£5), and was very happy with it.
For mains, Kake had pigeon with baby vegetables and creamed cabbage, while doop had tea-infused duck breast with puy lentils (£16). The pigeon was served on a long, narrow plate, in three preparations - one on the bone with a reduced sauce; one fairly pink, with slightly-too-crisp baby turnips and perfect baby carrots (real ones, not just sculpted pieces of bigger ones); and one less pink on top of a timbale of cabbage in a very rich cream sauce. While a meatatarian like Bob would have loved it, Kake would really have preferred more (and less rich) vegetable content. However, doop's duck and lentil dish was much more generous on the plant-food front, with a very decent portion of nicely-cooked lentils.
We finished with the cheese plate for Kake (£7 for five cheeses - seven cheeses would have been £8) and crepes Suzette for doop. The cheese plate was excellent, with the cheeses ranging from melty and smelly to blue and smelly (OK, I may be biased here).
Kake and Martin visited again on a Monday evening in December 2008. This time, we hadn't booked, but arriving a little after 7pm we were shown straight to a table. We were brought a little freebie amuse-bouche of a nice enough carrot and lemon veloute. Kake started with scallops again, this time wrapped in filo pastry (£7); they were just as good as last time. Unfortunately my main course of lamb stuffed with aubergine caviar (£22) was overcooked and chewy, quite a disappointment. Two courses each, a £21 bottle of rioja to share, and an auto-added 12.5% service charge brought the total bill to £84. Service was fine though. Our waiter expressed great disappointment at my not being happy with the lamb, and made a point of telling us that the service charge was optional, even though there's really little he could have done about the kitchen overcooking something (we paid it, of course).
Kake's verdict: I think I'd be more likely to go to Vivat Bacchus or Magdalen if I was looking for a full meal in the area and fancied modern European food, but I'd happily come back to La Cave for a glass or two of wine and some charcuterie and cheese.
Accessibility: The doorframe is something of a hurdle to getting in, though they have mitigated this somewhat by adding a ramp; still not sure if a wheelchair-user would manage it, though. In any case, the toilets are in the basement, down a flight of stairs.