Dinner for two with cocktails and wine: £150
There’s a style of Italian restaurant in my hometown of New York City that I just love. Relaxed yet polished atmosphere, authentic food and great service. NYC is positively infested with these little gems. My favorite – Lunetta in Brooklyn was walking distance from my flat and I make sure to eat there every time I am home for a visit.
This kind of place is hard to find in London. Cheep and cheerful is easy to find. Fine dining in a stiff, formal setting abounds. But modern fine dining where you can show up in jeans and trainers and still get white tablecloth service is harder to come by. I’d heard about Bocca di Lupo but just assumed it would be overpriced and fussy. But my friend Ian had raved about it and he’s got a rather trustworthy palette and does not suffer poor service well, so I went with it.
We showed up around 7pm midweek without a booking. I was expecting to be politely turned away but they have a great bar that runs the length of the front of the restaurant where punters can overlook the action in the open kitchen and get great wine suggestions from the charming barmen. It’s a fun place to sit if there’s just two of you.
First off we had a couple of negronis and some items from the Fritti section of the menu. Olives stuffed with minced pork and veal – perfect with a gin based drink really. And one of my favorite things from the Jewish quarter of Rome – deep fried artichoke.
Next we had a small plate of treviso risotto. It’s always risky ordering a small plate of risotto. What was the likelihood that they were going to make this tiny portion fresh for us? You can always tell when a restaurant has made the risotto mostly in advance and then finishes off portions as they are ordered. Or worse if they’ve just reheated it. It’s usually a mushy, pasty affair. Bocca di Lupo either makes every small serving on it’s own or they have perfected a method for reheating or finishing pre-cooked risotto because it was delicious. The rice was cooked just the right amount – and the dish was not overly starchy or stodgy.
It was at this point that I dropped my fork. I swear that the waitress had a new fork at my place before the dropped one hit the floor. I didn’t have to crane my neck to try to get anyone’s attention while my food went cold. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. Now that my friends is service.
Next up was Buristo – which is Italian blood sausage. I love blood sausage but it clearly completely freaked Ian out. More for me! Sicillian sardines with raisins and breadcrumbs – another excellent dish. And a great big dish of sauteed chanterelles which I seriously made sure sat on my right side so Ian had a hard time getting to them.
Ian’s favorite of the evening – and I have to agree it was divine – was the rustic pork and foie gras sausage with farro & porcini mushrooms. I mean just reread that. How is that not going to be delicious?
Desert was something chocolatey. I’m not really a chocolate person so I can barely remember it but it was nice. What I do remember was the grappa - Gioiello Chesnut Honey grappa to be precise. Great way to end a fantastic dinner.
I really enjoyed this meal. The food was excellent and the level of service and attention to detail just really made the whole experience. I’d come here for a business dinner, a date, or with a group of friends. Most exciting for me however is that the bar makes this a perfect place to come on your own when you really don’t want to share your mushrooms or sausage with anyone.
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer St.
London, W1D 7BB