I’m not sure why it took me until last Tuesday to visit Bocca di lupo (the restaurant opened at the start of 2009 and got amazing reviews from critics, bloggers and friends alike). I’m not sure, either, why it’s taken me a week to write about it (I’m not giving anything away by saying at the start of this review that it was ace). So I think I should stop procrastinating and just crack on and describe the evening.
You probably already know that most things on Bocca di lupo’s menu come in small and large portions; the small plates are half the price of the large ones and are perfect for sharing. If you didn’t know, you do now.
Bizarrely for someone who hates to share his individually selected meals, I’m a big fan of tapas style communal eating. So I think the small plate option is a great feature. Sharing doesn’t suit all occasions (probably not, for example, where there are 5 or more of you, or where the group is all male and super hungry, or if you haven’t actually agreed to share), but in this instance (4 old school friends; 2 male, 2 female; no fatties) small plates to share were spot on.
We started with a (small) plate of the house salad of shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino with truffle oil and pomegranates (nice, but I think a little too oily and needed either more pomegranate seeds, or something else to cut through the oil and bring out the peppery radish) and three of the pasta dishes (also small).
The gnocci with sausage ragu was excellent. The gnocci themselves were relatively light (sometimes I find gnocci to be heavy and claggy) and the ragu (a sweet tomato sauce with deliciously smokey and salty soft chunks of pork sausage) was rich, tangy and moreish.
We also really liked the trofie with Genovese pesto. Trofie are little squiggly straggly bits of pasta. I think that because it’s made of just flour and water (i.e. no egg) trofie is less springy than normal pasta. Regardless of the science, this was ultimately a great shape and texture to carry the (frankly awesome) fresh pesto. We all commented on how much we noticed and liked the chunks of parmesan (chunks, not crumbs) that formed a signficant part of the sauce.
For me, though, the best pasta dish was the nettle and chard pansotti served with a walnut sauce. (Continuing the education on pasta shapes) Pansotti are quite large triangular parcels of stuffed pasta. The pasta was rich and al dente, the nettle and chard filling was homely, and the walnuts added interest and bite. As an aside, I thought at £6 the dish was also excellent value (way more craft, more filling and more eating pleasure than there was in the minuscule £8 portion of tuna at Caravan last week).
Once those small plates had been safely devoured and cleared away, we were brought a dish of salted pollack cooked in tomatoes, peppers and olives (small, again). The tomato sauce was even tangier and moreish(ier?) than the gnocci’s ragu, and the pollack flaked beautifully. Yum. We also tried the rustic pork and fois gras sausage with farro and porcini. The sausage oozed as you cut into it, the fois gras added a sweetness to the drier, chunky bits of pork and the farro (like fat barley) soaked up the juices and were the perfect accompaniment to it all. Thank goodness we ordered a large plate of this. Double yum. [Note to self: serve meaty, juicy, mushroomy porky things with farro.]
We had also ordered a (small) portion of cannellini beans with sage as we thought this sounded nice and would go well with both of the above dishes. But this order never came.
On the one hand, this was a shame as we would have liked to try one of their sides. On the other hand, we had probably had our fill anyway. In any event, we were brought two balls of ice cream in lieu of the beans by our very apologetic waitress. No need for such an apology really – we’re not complainers.
Luckily for us, we really liked both flavours (one hazelnut, the other almond) and none of us have a nut allergy (hazelnut probably edged it – the classiest of my chums said it tasted “just like a Ferrero Rocher”).
Unluckily for them, we had intended to go to Gelupo (the new gelateria across the street run by the same crew) afterwards, but didn’t really feel the need following this freebie. [Dear owners of the Lupo empire, please do not feel that the gift of 2 balls of ice cream caused you to lose 4 ice cream sales - I returned to try Gelupo later in the week and will be recommending your artisan gelato at all opportunities, so it's probably a net gain.]
All in all, a cracking restaurant. Every dish we ordered was really very good and there are plenty more on the menu (which, in any event, regularly changes) that I look forward to trying. I hereby undertake not to procrastinate so much before my next visit.
The above dishes (1 salad (£5.50), 3 pasta (£7.50, £7 and £6 resptectively), 1 small fish (£7), 1 large meat (£16)), a carafe of the house pinot grigio + a tip for our nice and unnecessarily apologetic waitress came to £17 per person.
You could easily spend more – maybe you would want the side that we didn’t get (range from £4 to £7) and some dessert (also circa £4 to £7), but we were all satisfied.
www.boccadilupo.com - 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB – 020 7734 2223