Vivo Preview EventCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
Scurrying past Vivo’s boarded exterior, the residents of Islington can hardly imagine the delights within. The café, bar and bakery is set to open at the end of September, showcasing regional Italian specialities in a casual dining environment.
Arriving for a preview event, we were instantly awed by the restaurant’s interior. Walls of stacked Portland stone, unvarnished French Oak panels and a 14-metre granite counter extending onto the street had a quirky stone-aged chic – if the Flintstones had a classy restaurant in Bedrock, one suspects it would look and feel exactly like this!
Sipping an exquisite prosecco, we were taken on a guided tour of the venue by owners Will and Ben Thompson. Drawing heavily on traditional cuisine from the Neapolitan Riviera and Amalfi coast, the restaurant is a labour of love for the brothers, who spoke passionately of childhood trips to Italy and three years of intensive research.
The ground floor seats 50, with an intimate rooftop terrace able to accommodate a further 38. The ground floor counter will be the main focal point, with an all-day line-up of freshly baked breads, Roman pizza al taglio (rectangular sliced), desserts and biscuits, salads and a selection of hot food. Coffee, wines, prosecco and a selection of cocktails can be ordered from the bar, with an aperitivo hour for added authenticity.
The chefs were recruited via a Masterchef-style cook-off and displayed impressive skill. Sourdough breads of fennel and black rice were perfectly baked to a chewy crust, and pizzas had a crisp, airy base – similar to foccacia – with toppings ranging from the familiar to the unusual.
Melted mozzarella and oven-roasted tomatoes were teamed with pickled Frijarelli (broccoli rabe) to create one of the best vegetarian pizzas ever tasted, and Pumpkin Purée, Pancetta and Grated Pecorino was a garlic-infused, sweet and salty standout. Aubergine Parmigiana and Calabrese, a sausage pizza from Calabria, were also flavoursome but Margherita, loaded with chunks of fresh, torn mozzarella, oozing liquid with every bite, was messy to eat.
We were more than stuffed when a selection of exquisite desserts arrived: light and creamy Tiramisu, elegant Black Cherry and Pistachio Tart; Mille Feuille, a delicious variation of the French classic; Pasticceria Napoletana, traditionally made in Naples with orange blossom and wheat to celebrate Easter; Fruit Tart; Cassata Siciliana (candied fruit, ricotta and sponge encased in Italian meringue, and dusted with pistachio), and Ricciarelli, chewy Tuscan biscuits reminiscent of macaroons.
While the concept of an all-day Italian food counter is nothing new to London – critically acclaimed restaurateur Alan Yau introduced the casual dining model back in 2008, with the launch of Milanese bakery Princi in Soho – it’s pleasing to have some competition in the capital.
Given its Upper Street location, relaxing ethos and authentic food, Vivo has all the ingredients for success. Serving up style and flavour with finesse and passion, Vivo promises to be one of the best new additions to London’s casual dining scene – well worth a trip to Angel!
Photos: Monika Jørgesen
For further information about Vivo, 57-58 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 0NY, visit here.