El Vergel
132 Webber Street
Southwark SE1 0QL
With all the things I could do in the world, the last one I’d like to do is writing about the Chilean night. But a commitment is a commitment, so stop procrastinating and let’s get the job done. Still, I don’t feel like and in fact I think I won’t. I will, instead, write about how nice the evening turned out to be. Despite the rain. Despite the fact my tonsils were as big as two watermelons. Despite the un-smiling but rather efficient staff. Edo and I were chatting over a few, thin to transparency slices of bread and pebre, when A arrived and noticed how full (NOT!) the place was. But the table were actually all booked. The place never filled up though…mystery. Anyway, between a bite of the nice pebre and a look around here came G. The team was complete and ready to order, but the menu was as boring as the weather outside. And for a place claiming to be authentic Latin American, we thought grilled halloumi, hummus and feta salad were a bit…well, not Chilean! To break the ice we chose a bottle of wine, which was Argentinean but at least closer to Chile than Cyprus could be! Then we tried to pick something to eat…did we want something to share? Selection of starters? Mmmhhh, not much to select… Maybe just a main, then? Yes, but empanadas are not really exciting. Potato tortillas? Noooo…it’s Spanish! Right…refried beans, tortilla chips and fried plantain are definitely South American so one of each please. Sides sorted. Indecision lead us to salmon ceviche, serrano with manchego, empanadas de queso, one churrasco queso and two churrascos palta. And hot salsa on the side. The salsa was hot, fiery in fact (well done Vergel!) and the fish was good and incredibly minuscule (disappointing Vergel!). Empanadas not much different from M&S ones and churrascos received the following “praises”: I don’t like the bread, the meat is dry, heavy cheese, looks like a messy Panini. Woohoo! What a success! So why did I say, at the beginning of the review, I had a nice time? Because G told us about the amazing project he is about to start and A shared beautiful memories of his trip in South America last year. Edo and I got so engaged into the conversations we couldn’t care less about the mission. And it felt good. Something else happened though, that made us laugh as kids: the basins experience. If you want to wash your hands at El Vergel, you don’t go to the loo. You head for the round fountain in the corner of the restaurant that “serves the purpose” and makes you feel at the centre of other customers’ suspicious thoughts! We decided to call it an early night, paid our £20 each, agreed the place is ok for a quick lunch, agreed no one would go there for lunch due to its location, and left. Charlene, as quick and precise as a bullet, got us all home. And I, coughing as an old car, couldn’t stop thinking about how friends can make a dull night remarkable.

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 2
I am uninspired when it comes to writing about this one, which is why it’s been a week and only now do I find the will to write about it. We went with friends and had a lovely evening but the place itself left me with little to say. It’s in Southwark / Borough, not too far, reasonably civilised. It looks quite new, well decorated and presented, but quite clinical, with no charm whatsoever. It feels like a chain, like Jaimie’s Italian, or Zizzi, or a nicer version of Nando’s. The fact it is Chilean is only hinted by a couple of small items on the walls. It was completely empty when we got there, very discouraging, but eventually filled up and got quite bustling.

The menu was 50% Chilean, 25% generic South American, 25% Mediterranean. It labels itself as a Latin American and Mediterranean eatery which kind of says it. It was borderline in terms of national identity, but after a long discussion we decided to accept it, largely because of the lack of credible alternatives.

The pebre is a typical chilean dip made with coriander, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic and ground spicy peppers. It was quite good to nibble on while we waited.

As a starter I had cheese empanada, which was alright, albeit quite dry, but my friend said they are supposed to be so and he knows well, as he spent months in South America.

I then followed with a churrasco palta, which is rump steak, avocado and tomato in village bread. It was a panini, one that you could have for lunch in thousands of places. It was not bad at all, just uninspiring.

We had a glass of wine from Argentina each (yes, I know, we should have had Chilean) – got a coffee, paid the bill, and left.

Service was alright, no highs, no lows. Like I said, this place did not leave me with anything bad nor anything particularly good to say. It’s a nice restaurant for an informal lunch but has way too much a of a chain feel as an evening restaurant.

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2.5
  • Overall: 2.5