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What to drink at Café Britaly

From Cornish limoncello to Tennent’s Super, Louis Thomas looks at some of the top drops at Peckham’s new ‘Britalian’ caff.

Image credit: Steven Joyce

Co-founders Richard Crampton-Platt and Alex Purdie were previously of Bocca Di Lupo, Jacob Kenedy’s Soho ode to “authentic” regional Italian cooking, but Café Britaly, their new opening on Rye Lane, takes a rather different approach.

Crampton-Platt, who is also general manager, shared that while he is not ‘Britalian’ “by blood”, the decision to found Café Britaly came about from a “love of British café culture – and a desire to find a new way to reinvent it”: “Many of the famous extant cafes are Italian or Britalian-owned, think E Pellici and Regency Café, and we wish to be an evolution of this cultural moment that has been laying in plain sight since the 1950s.”

“After all,” he joked, “London was founded by Roman Italians 2,000 years ago, and we have had a shared history ever since.”

However, one of the dishes on the menu might have a legion of modern Romans angrily marching on South London – a cream-laced carbonara, topped with a fried egg – not quite like mama used to make.

“Does authenticity exist in food? This is a question that both myself and Alex have different answers to, and this is part of our dynamic,” Crampton-Platt shared. “We feel that some food is eaten specifically for its comfort or nostalgic value, and a carbonara served with cream that many British and Italian families would eat, can be good or even better simply because of our emotional response to it. Plus, all food evolves and is played around with, the first Italian carbonara recipe published 1954 in La Cucina Italiana had gruyere in it after all!”

If you’re prepared to enrage the Italians in your life by ordering the carbonara, Crampton-Platt suggests pairing it with the café’s Gavi di Gavi (£48 a bottle, £8 for a 125ml glass): “You need some acid to engage with the cream in dish, and luckily Italian wines are excellent for this. It has great texture, stone and flint flavours, and a smooth acidity which enlivens our carbonara. We get this Gavi from Anoushica at Liberty.”

It is fitting that Gavi di Gavi, so loved by UK consumers, features on the list alongside other Italian staples such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (£32 a bottle) and Primitivo (£43).

“We are a small space, with limited storage and have to hit all the major highlights with our drinks list,” he shared. “For us the wine is the premium section of our drinks list, and with only six listed we wanted a range that most could comprehend easily, whilst still choosing based on taste. This list will adapt over time and we may be adding a couple more in light of feedback, for example, a Pinot Grigio will be added shortly.”

Something stronger

While the wine selection is very much Italian-Italian, there is something rather more Anglo-Italian about other drinks, such as the Cornish Sundowner (£9.50), made using Prosecco and Silco limoncello, the latter of which hails not from the Amalfi coast, but St. Ives.

“We wanted a mix of crowd-pleasing households brands like Campari alongside a premium selection of local producers making delicious products. As far as possible, we’ve sourced our British liqueurs from London, but Silco stands out as an exception because the product is just so delicious. Limoncello has a bad reputation, but as soon as you try Silco’s product you will be a fan. Light, lemony, not too sweet and none of that artificial taste so typical of other offers.”

On the no- and low- side, Café Britaly also offers a range of non-alcoholic cocktails, including the Botivo Tonic (£8) and Wavelength Spritz (also £8).

“We are trying to be responsive to what Peckham needs as we are a local restaurant first and foremost. Some of the younger Peckham crowd don’t drink too much, and we hope our offer appeals to them,” he explained, sharing that the 0% ABV offering “may expand or contract over time depending on feedback”.

One surprising inclusion in the beer selection, which, of course, features Moretti, is Tennent’s Super (£9.50 for a 330ml serve). While the 7.5% ABV student special may not enjoy the rosiest reputation in the UK, in the old country it is viewed rather differently, as Crampton-Platt revealed: “To Italians it’s a ‘refined’ export beer renowned for its sweet taste and super strength. No idea why they latched onto Tennent’s of all things, we just find it hilarious and want to list it as one of our ‘Scotalian’ moments, as Alex is Scottish, from Crieff and went to university in Glasgow.”

Pairing picks

Asked to choose his ideal dish and drink combinations from Café Britaly’s current offering, Crampton-Platt went bold: “I’d pair our burrata and/or salumi and giardiniera with a South London Spritz (£10), made from Doppleganger, a nice red citrus aperitivo that lightens the mood as you snack on our summery meats, cheese and veg on a nice summer’s day.”

“Next up,” he continued, “I’ve got to pair our Montepulciano with our Britalian breakfast for a main course – there is something extra sinful about breakfast drinking, and the full body, cherry flavours and acidity of the wine pair brilliantly with the variety of flavours and textures in our breakfast.”

Crampton-Platt’s final choice was a “herbaceous and chocolatey Fernet by Asterley in my affogato, presumably at the end of lunch on a double shift to prepare me for the evening to come!”

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