Forza Win, 29-33 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR
Originally published in Palate Magazine
Forza Win? What could be a cocky setup definitely has the makings of a restaurant that knows how to fuck
Tik Tok’s sky fortress Forza Wine has re-opened its fully-fledged restaurant siblingForza Win, now in Camberwell, and victory is very much within sight for Bash Redford and his cadre. Our experience couldn’t have been more about new beginnings: with the sweet smell of sawdust in the air and unfinished panels, it had all the feeling of a soft, if not squishy, launch.
Flood defences of flour bags are stacked in that disarming ‘Mom & Pop’s place’ way around the perimeter as if to say our ingredients are so beautiful, they’re fit for decoration. In contrast to their mother site, the kitchen here is cavernous: gleaming with brushed steel and a sense of freedom with so much more room now for activities.
Nicknamed ‘Ghost Buster Toast’ due to the generous piping of whipped ricotta resembling Mooglie’s chubby spectre, it’s pretty spot-on. Gently humming with garlic and tingling with lemon, the ricotta sits on a piece of sturdy sourdough – all I can think about is how much this tastes like a savoury cheesecake, in the very best of ways. Finished with olive oil and flaked salt, it’s simultaneously light but indulgent.
Menu in hand, my partner’s eyes are ablaze. This means she’s seen the crab gnocchetti. Deeply golden and plump rhombi still yielding a tender mash-like interior are swathed in a brown crab sauce. The holy trinity of chilli, garlic and lemon run modestly throughout what is clearly a generous amount of butter.
Tagliatelle fine as typewriter ribbon has been cooked in chicken stock, which happens to be a particular home favourite. Slick and shining in emulsified egg yolk and perked up with a blast of fresh lemon, it carries elements of hearty home cooking delivered with delicacy; a real velvet glove of a dish
Somewhere under this sleet of parmesan lie taut powerlines of spaghetti. Clinging to this is a tomato sauce, crimson and jammy. It’s a good sauce, the pasta is well-made and the parmesan, decent. It embodies what we look for in so many pasta dishes: simplicity.
The old Escoffian rule of ‘above all, keep it simple’ seems to be something that Forza Win strives for. A whole seabass branded heavily with black bars from the grill resembles a bronze greave that had a mishap at the blacksmiths, piled with roasted hazelnuts and fruity satchel charges that are Datterini tomatoes. A swift incision and the spine lifts clean-away, leaving just cooked fillets and flaunts all the benefits of being cooked on the bone: succulent, a little firm and sweet.
If you’re familiar with Forza Wine’s social media presence you’ll know that marketing is their bread and butter, especially if Basilio is involved. It’d therefore be remiss of us if we didn’t order their tiramisu which they’ve billed as ‘The Second Best In Camberwell’ in deference to Theo’s Pizza just across the road, who won Counter Talk’s tiramisu competition last year. I’ve always found this dessert to be sketchy territory because at least one ingredient is always ruining the party: coffee and/or booze-logged ladyfingers can have you disproportionately going for the creamy bit in an effort to restore some balance; or perhaps the cocoa dust is applied so heavily that one breath means bitter asphyxiation. Having not tried Theo’s iteration, I can only assume it makes you see God, because this ‘runner-up’ is extremely good. And I mean, spoon-wars-with-my-partner, good.
The ladyfingers have been dipped but for a moment in espresso and so hold their shape. The cream is fortified with mascarpone, further enriched with the glow of egg yolk with a big saccharine smooch of Amaretto, all whipped together to balance the richness. Topping it all off is a cocoa dusting that sits beneath a shale of both chocolate shavings but also chips, adding that extra texture that you didn’t know you needed.
Camberwell is already an embarrassment of edible riches and with time to find their feet, Forza Win could well be tipping those scales further, in addition to mine at home.