If you haven’t been to Forza Wine, you’ll probably recognise it from the pictures. It’s the Peckham-based rooftop wine bar (from the people who brought us Forza Win in Camberwell) that’s won the hearts of skyline view-infatuated Londoners everywhere. As well as its fantastic location, Forza Wine is well-loved for its selection of Italian cocktails and natural wines.
Now it’s branched out from SE15 to SE1, taking up a spot on the northwest terrace (including al fresco space), at the National Theatre as part of the shake up of its food and drink programme – street food superstars KERB are also in residence and Lasdun, from the team behind the Marksman in Hackney, opened in the spring.
It’s a smart move by the theatre as the culinary offering on the Southbank is pretty flat, so bringing in an exciting independent immediately makes you stand out from the chains, and it’s a bold move from Forza Wine as it’s no mean feat scaling up from a neighbourhood spot to a London institution. Happily, it seems to have paid off. Not only does it look the part, with mid-century modern sideboards and Cesca rattan chairs complementing the NT’s brutalist architecture but the sizeable space was packed on the Tuesday evening we visited, and not just with people grabbing a pre-show bite.
Like the Peckham original, this Forza Wine’s menu is also centred around ‘sort of Italian’ snacks. A thick slice of toast with a dollop of green herby, citrusy butter set the tone for the meal – simple in appearance but punchy in execution. We followed that with burrata, earthy beetroot and hazelnut pangrattato; chunky cauliflower fritti with aioli; sprouting broccoli drenched in brown shrimp butter, with capers adding pops of acidity; and squash, pearl barley and sage dish, rich with butter and beautifully burnished orange in colour.
If you go to Forza Wine and don’t have a soft serve or a custardo, did you even go? They’ve become two of the bar’s trademarks so obviously we got both. The soft serve was a towering swirl of milk ice cream, layered on top of a roasted apple purée and sprinkled with candied walnuts. The custardo, a frankly genius invention of a shot of espresso with a shot of custard, was like the bottom of an affogato where the ice cream has melted into the coffee. Together, a divine dessert combo.
Forza Wine is a perfect pre-theatre option – the drinks list is interesting, the food is easy and comforting, and you can eat well in a rush if you’ve got seats to take – but it’s very much worth being the sole focus of your evening. If you’re in a four there’s an option on the menu to have the lot and we think that’s a fine way to spend a night on the Southbank.
Upper Ground, National Theatre, London SE1 9PX