Saturday, 6 December 2008

Bocca di Lupo

It’s that time of the year and I’ve been jumping the gun as ever with my plans to compile a list for the best eating experiences in 2008. Once again a bodacious newbie that’s impervious to current climes turns up from nowhere and causes myself to reconsider the said list. I don’t think I’ve actually reviewed any esoteric Italian restaurants this year. Apart from a diabolically average and painfully expensive experience at Locanda Locatelli earlier in the year, I’ve never been at all tickled by the suggestion of ‘let’s have Italian today’. Churlish as it may seem, I’ve always preconceived at the idea of having an Italian meant boring pasta (which I have three times a week chez moi), wet soggy rice pud they call risotto, veal liver plus more veal liver and wait for it horrid tiramisù.

I came across Bocca di Lupo from Jan Moir’s judicious review at Are You Ready To Order? and subsequently the godlike Fay Maschler’s tuppence worth for the ES. What drew me to this place was its offer of a melange of tapas-sized dishes inspired and drawn from the 21 regions of Italy. The location in Soho is fine by me, despite the backwater nature of it.

The interior belies the street the restaurant resides, they’ve obviously budgeted without much constraints for it was pretty posh and very marginally formal in retrospect. Came to lunch with my daughter and suitably propped with a reservation in tow. She suggested that instead of settling down at our allocated table in the now very full dining room we should instead, her words, ‘do a Barrafina’ and sit at the marble-topped bar, from where we can watch the chefs at work.

It was a brilliant idea as we were able to see and appreciate chef/proprietor Jacob Kenedy and his team knock up lunch for us. The service although friendly, needs more refinement and resolve; it can be achingly slow and difficult to gain any attention from either the black attired waiters or the Maître d'.

Freebie of raw porcini, puntarelle and red sicilian prawn

The food, oh Mama, the food was indeed beautiful and superb. The spot-on seasoned and crispy Fritto di mare of prawns, squid soft-shell crab was to all intents and purposes a universally accessible dish that appeals to everyone and anyone- my daughter has already decided on ordering this wonderful dish all for herself next time.

The Fritto Romano of whole fried artichoke and veal sweetbreads was graciously paired, the former was both crispy and flavourful and the latter utterly sublime.

The Swordfish 'a la Palermitana', was probably in my mind the least successful of the four mains we tried, the blandness and indifferent texture of the fish had to seek salvation from the extraordinarily good caper and ricotta salata.

The highlight of Spaghettini with lobster, mussels & ginger was nothing short of a masterstroke; the beautifully cooked pasta was worthy of its adornment of sweet lobster.

For pudding, how could I possibly ignore the Sanguinaccio with its noteworthy or more befittingly barmy inclusion of Pig’s blood.

This chocolate spread (they call it pâté) sprinkled with pine nuts and candied peel served with sourdough bread was intense and perfectly yummy without any hint of piggyness (although the young female chef labouring in front of us begged to differ) except perhaps a trace of umami noted.

My daughter’s Sicilian and Piemontese chocolates & petits-fours were altogether a thumbs-up affair but we agreed it should have been for two to share.

The yearning to come back is strong, as I’ve only sampled 5 of the 21 regions offered. The mouth of the wolf has certainly howled more than adequately to put itself on the map.

12 Archer Street
London W1D 7BB


Anonymous said...

Hello! tasty treats! and I went the other day for lunch. We both regret not having done a Barrafina and sticking to the one dish meals. I'm going to follow your example next time so that I can try different dishes!

You're a busy eater...(compliment from one foodie to another)

bellaphon said...

Hey HYL, glad to have you on board. Busy eater and ever-expanding waistline; that’s me!