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Cantaloupe Restaurant & Bar

35-42 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PD

Reviewed by Siobhan McCann

Cantaloupe Restaurant and Bar is a hidden jewel amongst the sprawling lanes and walkways of trendy Shoreditch. Deceivingly small from the outside, once inside the venue extends back with many adjoining rooms, dotted with comfy leather sofas and larger tables for groups. The venue has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere appropriate for its ‘super cool’ Shoreditch location, but thankfully devoid of the pomp and posing that exists in some establishments in this part of London. The staff we encountered were friendly and attentive, and the service efficient. Music is in the shape of three resident DJs who provide a selection of beats on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to help your night go with a swing.

Artistic Latin American photography and print work line the walls of the quiet, intimate restaurant area, which is slightly raised on a split level from the bar. Small wooden tables or snug booths act as options for seating, and a large skylight floods the area in natural light. My guest and I were seated at a cosy wooden table for two, in view of the busy open kitchen. It was a sweltering hot day when we visited, so in order to cool down we each ordered a chilling cocktail (any excuse!). I opted for the signature Cantaloupe Martini, made from Cantaloupe liqueur, fresh melon, vodka and orange juice - served over ice, it was both refreshing and tasty! My guest tried the Strawberry Margarita, which I gladly sampled (for the purposes of research only!) and it was also delicious and thirst-quenching.

And so to the food! The menu at Cantaloupe has just been revamped. There is much to choose from, with a selection of generous Tapas style starters and sides if you’re after a quick bite, to a varied selection of mains, including hunger-busting steaks and delicious vegetable stews. There really is something for everyone.

For starters, my guest and I shared the mix of cold meat - a firm favourite in any Spanish restaurant. I was delighted when a huge serving of serrano ham, chorizo, salchichon, lomo embuchado was placed before us, all served with generous helpings of caperberries, olives, cheese, grilled flatbread and drizzled with a fabulous, zesty dressing. Simply superb!

To eat, I chose the Carbonada criolla - an Argentinean beef casserole braised in Mabec with pumpkin, apricots and oregano, served with a sweet potato mash. The beef was delectable, so tender the cubes were falling apart, but the sauce was liberally spiced and would not be one for diners with a delicate palate. That said, the light, fluffy sweet potato mash proved an ideal accompaniment. My guest enjoyed a seafood paella of king prawns, calamari, mussels, peppers with chorizo and green peas, topped with a fillet of grilled sea bass (it’s worth noting that Cantaloupe make every effort to ensure their fish is sourced from sustainable stocks).

To drink, we ordered a bottle of fruity Rioja Blanco with our meal, which was bold but refreshing. Wine at Cantaloupe can be purchased by the glass or bottle, and the restaurant carries an impressive menu of Rojos (reds), Blancos (whites) and Rosados (rose) wines, starting at £13.50 a bottle and primarily from Spain, Portugal and South America.

For dessert we shared the Dark Peruvian Chocolate Mousse, as we were both too full to attempt a pudding each! Reasonably priced at just £5, the mousse was deliciously rich, and came topped with a creamy pistachio ice-cream: the perfect conclusion to our wholesome meal.

All in all, Cantaloupe is a great venue with much to offer at terrific value - you could stop by for a cocktail or two, share some authentic Spanish Tapas or indulge with an authentic, hearty meal.

Cantaloupe is situated close to Old Street Tube. A three course meal for two with a bottle of wine is around £30 a head. Cocktails start at £6.50.

Siobhan McCann
August 2008


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