Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bocca di Lupo

A group of old flat mates and I have started an unofficial 'indulgent supper club.' London on a budget sadly doesn’t stretch as far as the city’s spenny restaurants. But once in a while we go and spoil ourselves to dinner at a fancy restaurant of our choice.

Our most recent outing was to Bocca di Lupo; an informal, vibrant trattoria that serves traditional regional cuisine from all over Italy. I’d read so many great reviews about this place and had been wanting to go for AGES, so I was very excited…

Just off the main Soho strip, Bocca di Lupo is a worlds away from the hustle and bustle it’s surrounded by.  It has a gorgeous understated interior; very stylish and imbues relaxation. It’s an immediate breathe of fresh air from your usual Italian. No clichéd overweight Papa greeting you with indecipherable exclamations and whirling arms! We were welcomed by the friendly maître d' and ushered to our table, where they swiftly took our coats and brought appetisers. Out came lots of freshly baked doughy bread to dip in light flavoursome olive oil, tiny black olives and huge tasty green ones. I usually try and hold back a bit on the freebies to save room for later, but these were SO good I couldn't resist having loads!

We were then presented with rustic paper menus. After a quick scan pretty much the only word I recognised was broccoli! The menu is so traditional and regional that a lot of it is unrecognisable to Joe Bloggs (i.e. me in this case). This is not meant as a criticism; on the contrary it adds to the appeal of this very genuine and serious foodie restaurant.

To start off we ordered some really fabulous red wine recommended to us by a lovely waiter; Blauburgunder Pinot Nero Classico Colterenzio, Pinot Nero, 2008. Can't remember its exact subtleties but it was really delicious!

After deciphering the different dishes we decided to share some starters and have our own mains. The most delicious waft of truffle oil came from the table next door, so we ordered the 'shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil', accompanied by a selection of fritti. The 'artichoke a la guida' and 'olive stuffed with minced pork and veal' fritti were really wonderful. The salad was a very different dish, but really complemented the fritti; it was SO light and flavoursome. Such a bad idea to share starters, we wanted them all to ourselves!

Now onto the mains... My great friend Cordelia is so good at encouraging us all to try unusual things, but when she suggested the tripe it was unanimously vetoed! None of us our fans of offal and we finally won her round. Although if you were to go by any of our dishes, i'm sure it is equally fantastic.

I love risotto and got very excited when I spotted the 'Pearl barley rabbit risotto.' I had tried neither pearl barley OR rabbit, so I (unusually!) made my decision rather quickly. They brought our mains out in good time.  Long enough so we could chat, enjoy our wine and soak up the wonderful atmosphere, but not too quickly so that we felt we were being rushed which I hate.

After my first mouthful of risotto I could barely speak it was so good.... The consistency of the dish was beautiful. The texture of the pearl barley with the soft meat was extraordinary. The rabbit was in sizeable chunks and there was plenty strewn throughout the pearl barley. You could really taste the quality of the ingredients; so flavoursome but not at all salty, such fresh and wholesome food. I have this awful habit of putting black pepper on everything, but I didn't want to add a thing. It was just perfect as it was! It truly was the best thing I've eaten at a restaurant for a very long time. I tried to eat it really slowly so as to savour every mouthful!

The other mains at the table were equally appreciated. The cannelini beans with clams and langoustine apparently melted in your mouth; 'How can it be cooked and still that tender?' All in all we were thoroughly bowled over.

When it came to dessert we were all pretty full but adamant to share something because we were sure their excellency extended to the puddings! So Cordelia finally won this time and, intrigued, we ordered the 'Sanguinaccio - sweet paté of pig's blood & chocolate with sourdough bread.' This was really really unusual. The bread came in four slices on a plate with a little pot of the pig's blood and chocolate. I spread a little of the paté on a piece of sourdough and was amazed at the complexity of it. For the first second or two it tastes of bitter chocolate, but then the taste of pig's blood hits the back of the tongue, and your mouth is filled with this unexpected rich taste and texture. It was really great, and I'm so happy that we tried such an unusual pudding.

When we asked for the bill we asked our waitress a couple of questions. All of the ingredients are flown in daily from Italy, hence their unbeatable quality. Bocca di Lupo was started by an Austrailian chef called Jacob Kennedy, and has since been joined by David cook who came from the restaurant Moro. All rest of the guys in the kitchen are Italian. The service was really good. All of the staff had good knowledge of the menu and wine and were incredible efficient, polite and friendly. The bill came to £40 each for 2 courses, a shared pudding AND wine, which is an absolute bargain considering.

We all loved our evening at Bocca di Lupo. I highly recommend it, not only for it's excellent food, but also for it's lovely atmosphere and the general experience. This is the perfect venue for a date, or a special occasion with a small group of friends/family. FYI - it's extremely popular and always packed to the rafters, so you definitely need to call about 1 month in advance for a table.


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