Wow. From the first bite the food at Bocca di Lupo is sensational. Tucked away in a back street in Soho as soon as you walk in you know you are in for a treat at Bocca di Lupo. The restaurant is a rush of bright white light. A huge white marble bar runs along the side and this is the “chef’s counter” where we have booked for dinner.
I pull up a bar stool and watch the chefs at work as I wait for my friend Claire to arrive. Disappointingly there is no Tom Aikens inspired branding of chefs with hot palette knifes or even Gordon Ramsay style swearing. Everyone seems to be working quite efficiently and calmly with time for a few snatched jokes and chats in between. I try to resist filling up entirely on the excellent bread and olives and try even harder to resist downing a prosecco before Claire gets there.
Finally she arrives and I am not reduced to drinking alone. Our appetites have been firmly whetted by this proximity to the kitchen it does not take us long to order. Our waiter suggests that the best way to sample the menu is by ordering small plates to share which is sound advice. This is Italian food but not the way you have come to expect it. A light salad of shaved radishes, celeriac and pecorino is sprinkled with sweet bursts of pomengrate and a decadent splash of truffle oil which infuses the dish with its earthy aroma. A simple dish of shaved prosciutto comes with a twist as the prosciutto is lamb and served with a wedge of pecorino cheese. Don’t worry, although the meat is different it still includes a rim of fabulous white fat which melts in your mouth.
Spinach ravioli served with a sage and butter sauce is simplicity itself. The spinach used is so fresh and lightly cooked that it is unlike ravioli I have ever had before. A fat little pork and foie gras sausage is served on top of a bed of a grain that I have never tasted before and mushrooms. The grain is farro an ancient wheat grown in Tuscany and Umbria. The farro is swelled to bursting point with the rich flavours and juices from the foie gras sausage. We sop up the remnants with our side of crispy roast potatoes and chestnuts.
The danger of sitting so close to the kitchen is that we have been able to spy every dessert as it emerges and so have managed to come to the conclusion that it is necessary to order three desserts between the two of us. Perhaps this is also an effect of being so easily able to order multiple glasses of prosecco. Really who were we kidding when we didn’t just order a bottle to begin with.
My favourite is the cannoli which are small tubes of fried pastry served with a bowl of chocolate spotted ricotta which you use to fill the delicate tubes. It is then spoons to the ready as we tackle the palate energising burnt almond granita served in a high glass and topped with a scoop of so good but so bad bitter chocolate sorbet. Finally we squeeze in a calzoncelli each which is a little parcel of hot fried pastry containing a mix of chocolate, chestnut and anise. Just the thing to accompany our coffee and tea.
There are a few things I would change. The service was a little slow at times in particular given that we were practically sitting on top of the waiters station. Claire thought that the lighting was too bright. I admit that it was slightly unflattering (beware for first dates) however guess that all that light was perhaps necessary at the chef’s counter so that the chefs could actually see what they were doing. These are pretty minor gripes though. Bocca di Lupo is one of the most fabulous dining experiences available in London at a reasonable price.
Details: 12 Archer Street, Soho W1D 7BB (Ph 020 7734 223)
If you liked this you may also like reading about further exploits with Claire at nearby Soho tapas bar Barrafina or reading about some of my travels in Italy to the fabulous Donna Rosa on the Amalfi coast.