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17 May 2012
40 Maltby Street
020 7237 9247
40 Maltby Street really is in the arse end of nowhere for most of us. It squats in one half of a railway arch somewhere underneath the track between London Bridge and South Bermondsey station.
And being in the arse end of nowhere, it’s certainly not on the road to somewhere, so you can forget about passing pedestrians or drivers chancing on it. Even the most determined of diners will probably be deterred by its industrial neighbours in those back streets of Bermondsey – and turn back, for the familiar grey of chain restaurants at London Bridge.
Those who do make it, as the band of degenerates from the office did who kindly kept me company (just for one drink, they said) when I went a couple of weeks ago, are in for a treat.
Glitz and glamour are certainly not top of the agenda: it’s bar service, there’s only one toilet, and one of the tables is made of a stack of cardboard boxes. There isn’t even any music, apart from the rolling rumble of trains overhead.
And knowing nothing about it beforehand, I was surprised to see a food menu – the blackboard behind the bar – with only six or so options, most of which are small.
But it quickly became clear that this place was all about the wine. The business behind it, which shares the other half of the arch, is a wine merchant specialising in grapes unsullied by chemical pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers. Wine, naturally.
The four of us ordered a few dishes to share: some cheeses, probably from Neal’s Yard next door, a slab of delicious terrine, an artichoke, and some goat.
Yes, I did say goat, but more precisely, suckling kid. Slow-cooked with lentils and spuds, the goat was fall-off-the-fork tender and bloody marvellous. Top banana. Even our resident veggie muscled in to try some.
The wine, as you would hope, was fantastic. Not being a real wine buff, I doubt that I could tell the difference between a good wine made using chemicals and one of the good wines on offer here, but they were certainly some of the best I’ve had in a while.
We tried a mystery white, labelled only with question marks, which was rich and tasted similar to a dry sherry. For desert we skipped desert and tried a bottle of red called Viti, Vini, Bibi, roughly translated from the Latin as: “Grapes, wine, drink.” That, too, was excellent.
The staff were pretty fly as well, not only did they know a great deal about the wine they were selling, but were also very patient and polite with the drunken rabble that we soon became.
It was their fault though, eau de vie or ‘fire water’, they had said, was a great palate cleanser. We can all testify to that, especially after six of them.
Given where it is, you will probably only find 40 Maltby Street if you know about it, and that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed it. Its dark, underground, rough and improvised air gives the feel of a speakeasy in Prohibition America, of excitement, and charming individuality.
But more and more will come to know our secret. With the rise of Maltby Street’s collection of foodie businesses, like Monmouth coffee, Kernel brewery, and the escapees from Borough Market, it’s likely that the once quiet street will get busier and busier.
The owners of No.40, who have opened only on Thursday and Friday nights and all day Saturday until now, clearly agree and have applied for a license to open for the rest of the week.
Tip of the hat to them, I say. They may be in the middle of nowhere, but together with all the other businesses there, they have certainly made the arse end of it a nice place to be.
Suckling kid £14.00
Bottle of mystery white wine £39.00
Glass of white wine £4.80
Bottle ofred wine £24.00
12 x eau de vie shots £48.00
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