I entered Four Hundred Rabbits at 7pm on a Friday night in a slightly pessimistic frame of mind. It was a bit later than I would like to dine out with three children aged five and under, and this sparkling new restaurant does not take bookings, so you just have to turn up and hope for the best. As I stood and waited, I registered the smell of undercooked onion, which made me feel as though I had indigestion before I had even sat down at the table. There were a number of hovering staff but no one seemed to be paying any attention to the swelling number of people in the waiting area. It took several minutes before I managed to catch someone’s eye, and even then it became clear that I had unintentionally jumped the queue.
My husband arrived with the kids and the friendly but slightly frazzled man who took my name came over to ask if I would need a high chair, which he then went and got, despite the table not being ready. A couple of minutes later I saw someone else carrying it back behind the kitchen and putting it away again.
I whiled away the waiting time by reading some of the promotional material pinned up on the wall. There was a pretty long explanation of the name of the restaurant, which has something to do with fermentation (bring your hipster bingo tickets) and Aztec gods. I found myself thinking that if it needs that much explanation, it might not be a very good name.
All in all, my confidence was at a pretty low ebb by the time we sat down at the table. Things began to turn around when we chatted with our refreshingly unironic Canadian waiter, who made ordering a pleasure. Some beer and Vadasz pickles arrived and things began to look quite promising. We had to fight our two year old for some bread-and-butter pickles, and the beer had a deliciously bitter and herby flavour.
Happily the pizza was the actual star of the meal. My husband can’t eat cheese, which can make pizza dull and a bit dry but the one he chose had crumbled chorizo, pickled chillies and basil and it got the no-cheese seal of approval. I had a special with smoked pig cheek (like ham but sooo much better). The kids’ pizza had San Marzano tomato and mozzarella and we added some smoked pig cheek, which was demolished pretty much as soon as it landed on the table.
To finish off there’s Gelupo ice cream, which you can get in a cone or as a sundae. We tried strawberry sorbet, apple and cinnamon and milk chocolate. The kids gave it the thumbs up.
It’s not a surprise that burgers, pizza and burritos have gone gourmet and are gaining traction and popularity. Done well they are delicious, family-friendly and comparatively inexpensive. Four Hundred Rabbits has some rough edges to knock off but it’s a great addition to the neighbourhood’s family-friendly food offering.
web, 02087716249, 30-32 Westow Street, Crustal Palace SE193AH, 11am-9.30pm, pizzas from midday, does not take bookings, uses Qudini (cloud-based digital queue management)