What: A casual ‘mostly’ Italian restaurant in Shad Thames, a characterful pedestrianised street on the south side of the river in the shadow of Tower Bridge. Legare takes its name from the Italian verb meaning ‘to bind’ and majors on pasta and raw dishes served alongside a low intervention wine list. The restaurant is one of a number of relatively affordable London pasta places to open or be due to open in the last few months of 2019.
Who: Jay Patel, a former general manager at Barrafina Adelaide Street and Koya City, and ex Trullo senior sous chef Matt Beardmore. “The restaurant draws inspiration from the places Matt and I have worked at and travelled. We are not an out-and-out classic Italian restaurant, and do not pertain to be,” says Patel.
The vibe: The 35-cover space is tightly proportioned with very limited back of house. The setup is reminiscent of other pasta specialists with a mix of table and counter seating and a fully open kitchen. Legare appears to be have designed on a fairly low budget but looks good for it with its clean lines, whitewashed walls, grey upholstery and smattering of tasteful modern art.
The drinks: Legare’s wine program has been overseen by sommelier Cameron Dewar, whose CV includes Australia’s Attica and London’s Elystan Street. The list has a strong Italian bias but some of Italy’s immediate neighbours get a look in too. Prices start at £24 a bottle (£5 a glass).
The food: The menu kicks off with a few snacky bits - salted almonds, gnocco fritto - before a selection of crudo (raw) dishes. On our visit these included oysters; Longhorn beef with Colatura di Alici (AKA Italian fish sauce); and gilt head bream with citrus dressing and espelette pepper. As Italian cooking tradition dictates the seafood is lightly seasoned and very fresh. This is followed by antipasti, including stracciatella with sobrasada, oregano and olive oil; and clams ‘acqua pazza’ (meaning crazy water), and the last savoury section is pasta, with options including orecchiette with fennel sausage and cavolo nero ragu; and stracci with crab, chilli, garlic, saffron and pangrattato.
And another thing: Legare is certainly comparable to the likes of Padella - which arguably kick-started the specialist pasta restaurant trend - Lina Stores, Pastaio and Emilia’s Crafted Pasta. However, Patel and Beardmore’s debut feels like an evolution of the genre and – dare we say it – a bit more grown up. The pasta price point is slightly higher justified by more substantial portions of pasta (they’re main course sized rather than small plates), there are more menu options, you can book and the overall experience feels less rushed.