Bocca di Lupo could certainly never be described as a “red sauce joint“. My meal here at the weekend was some of the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve been to Italy. I holidayed there back in 2004, visiting Rome, Florence and the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck with my restaurant choices. Sick of the same old pizza and pasta, my wife and I ventured ever further off the beaten track in search of quality, but we were rarely blown away. I know the good stuff is there, I just need to do a little more research next time.
A few weeks ago I started making a shortlist of restaurants to visit during my trip to London. I fancied the idea of starting the weekend off with some Italian and saw Bocca di Lupo mentioned on the excellent London Eater blog. The restaurant opened in November 2008 and specialises in “regional” Italian food, offering local specialities from Lombardy to Sicily. The restaurant has been attracting great reviews from national media and food bloggers. I was surprised to see a review crop up in Ireland’s Sunday Tribune, of all places.
The menu is well structured. Most of the dishes are available as small and large portions, offering diners a way of sampling a wide range of dishes. We started with olives, some decent sourdough bread and a dish of fantastically fruity olive oil. The waiter explained the menu to us and recommended several dishes including the “Buffalo mozzarella & rocket salad” which he described as “fresh as a daisy” having been flown in from Italy that day. It was seriously good quality; the rocket and olive oil a perfect accompaniment. We also had the “Shaved radish, celeriac & pecorino salad” and “Fried salt cod & courgettes“. The dishes were so simple, full of clean and distinct flavours. At last, the Italian food I’d read so much about!
We were now hitting our stride and looking forward to some pasta. We opted for the “Veal & pork agnolotti with a light meat sauce” and “Spinach & ricotta malfatti with butter & sage“. The agnolotti (a type of ravioli) was a stunner, savoury and delicious. Malfatti are a type of dumpling, similar to gnocchi. The soft texture of the malfatti was perfect for soaking up the herby butter. Another triumph.
It was time to move onto the serious business of meat and fish. The “Poussin in a bread, raisin & pine nut salad” is one of the most expensive items on the menu. I had “panzanella” in mind when I ordered it, but it was quite different. The bread in this salad is roasted with lots of garlic and oil, making it quite filling. The dish was good, but the poussin was not as tender as I would have liked. Our “Baked red mullet with tomato, olives, capers & bruschetta” was very gutsy, the strong flavour of the snapper standing up well to the olives and capers.
It was now almost time to admit defeat, we were truly stuffed. We shared a superb “Zabaione semi-freddo“, full with the flavour of Marsala and pistachio nuts. A great end to a great meal.
Verdict: 8/10Bocca di Lupo 12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB http://www.boccadilupo.com/