Forza Wine, The Rooftop, 133A Rye Ln, London SE15 4BQ

- Review -

Forza Wine: Tik Tok's Peckham sky fortress goes beyond the call of duty

Ordering small plates on a stormy rooftop bar in Peckham whilst making Mantis-like snatches for the menu I keep forgetting to pin down with my glass, isn’t something I’d usually be up for. But Forza Wine has made an alluring case for themselves in the run-up to being able to hug, kiss and argue up-close in public once again.

I don’t know what it is about becoming a customer that turns me into such an embarrassing muddle. I manage to order the same single glass of wine three times until I’m triple parked, all because of my inability to function as a person. It’s also why I can’t function in a kitchen either, which makes me think I’m in way over my head, regarding my life choices.

Deep-fried cauliflower which seemed to start as a menu placation across the globe, has been dominated in the Forza kitchen. A fry so crisp, it’s in a constant state of shatter whilst being so liberally seasoned right out of the fryer, it tells you everything there is to appreciate about a cauliflower: the flesh is still steamingly sweet, the outer leaves imparting bitterness and the surface is caramelised in a way that gives a concentrated umami tickle. This mound of gnarly florets come with an aioli that vies for just as much attention, bringing that fresh, sticky-sweet emulsified fire that also acts as a heat-sink for the freshly-fried goods.

A deftly-filleted mackerel sits thatched with slices of preserved lemon rind, in a pool of the juices, flecked with chilli flakes. Intensely grilled on the skin side, the residual temperature has brought out those oils giving rise to the much-maligned term, unctuousness. Zipping with lemon that leaves behind a smouldering warmth, it’s an outright giggle to eat- even if it’s started to rain.

‘Sorry about the rain- would you like an umbrella?

Having just been in the Mediterranean in my mind, I open my eyes to this question and it so firmly reminds me I can’t be in any other country than England. Incidentally, I’m suddenly contacted by someone who used to work there, citing the excellent nature of the people here.

With new season asparagus slowly becoming old, I feel times' withered claw grasps become ever-firmer and so its pairing of burrata sealed the deal. Seasoned with parmesan, the asparagus is boldly served raw- something of a low-key power move that denotes real confidence in a supplier. The concept is great but has succumbed to an issue of execution- it seems like a riff on an ‘egg and soldiers’ but only just. Independently the ingredients are delicious and with a view to the grilled flatbread and mushrooms and thyme, I save the burrata for smearing.

The flatbreads are rifled with the depressions of the grill, golden but remarkably dense. The mushrooms are so tenderly cooked- superbly seasoned and retaining not only their carnivorous satisfaction, but the umami too. There’s no excess liquids or loss of shape- just another brilliant example of how firmly the reins are flexed here.

Being immediately drawn to this before the rest of the menu, the ‘chicken and ‘nduja’ finds its way to me. A couple of thighs with the skin blistered crisp and pocked lazing in a bulls-eye of ‘nduja and orbiting layer of luminescent orange oil. There’s a funkiness to the ‘nduja and it doesn’t season the dish in the way I’d imagined, which could be the thing that put me off-kilter.

But what brings my head slamming back down onto the bar of reality is that Forza doesn’t have to do this- they could slash their menu and even simplify to a point that’s good enough for the punters to keep slinging down glasses. Instead, they produce food that rivals some businesses to whom the food business is their sole commitment.

Lastly, a little cortado glass of mint and chocolate soft serve clinks down next to me. Bursting with fresh mint cloaked in a just-bitter chocolate swirl, it’s the most natural mint chocolate chip that’s subtle it hangs around, cooling creaminess giving way to freshness. I don’t care that it’s roughly 10 degrees out here.

Of course, I’m surrounded by reams of Nathan Barley’s and those people that say ‘yas’, holding a Vogue cigarette with open palm as if constantly making a point, but as if you’d expect anything less of a rooftop bar in Peckham. I’ve come to their world, and I’m sure I ruined many Tik-Toks and Stories that night, simply by being so unaesthetically present in the background.

In my less cynical moments, it’s good to see the saber-rattling of British drinking culture- they’ll turn out for a drop, anywhere, any time and if that sort of thing perpetuates offerings like that of Forza, I’m willing to put up with the public that much longer.