Q: What is it? A: An Italian embassy in Soho with fantastic pasta, a Bib Gourmand-award and an outstanding waiter.
I don’t know where to start, as this is not a proper review.
I only had a quick lunch at the Bocca di Lupo. So don’t expect a lot of images of food or menus. At this point, I do know two things:
1) They serve wonderful pasta.
2) They have Ernest.
Both are reasons to come back. Let’s start with Ernest. When he first approached the table, I was not sure how to react. Reason? To this day, Ernest is the happiest person I’ve ever met. I start to wonder; is he flirting with me? Is he drunk, high or crazy? The answer: None of the above. Ernest is flirting with the entire world because he is obviously in love with it. And if he gets a stiff ”Thank you, that was delicious” from a Brit in a grey three-piece, he floats around on his own endorphines for the next 15 minutes. It’s highly contagious. He injects some good spirits into a lunch in Soho. Ernest is a person who sings and dances when he is carrying out a half-eaten plate of risotto. And it’s not a performance act.
Fine, but what about the pasta?
The aforementioned pasta is fantastic. I had a high-octane linguini with spider crab, tomato and basil. If in London, it’s probably the quickest and most affordable direct-flight to Italy you can get your hands on. The crab came with the expected light sweetness and then the rich pasta sent pleasant shock waves through my entire sensory system.
Giles Coren, the Times food-critic, described the cooking as “untranslated”. I will now blatantly steal that description. This is the most authentic Italian meal I’ve had since Paolo’s mother came by at the Villa Fontelunga to cook for the guests. And not surprisingly, all the items on the menu are listed with the region of origin, (personal accomplishment; I am now able to to spot the Campania region on the map without googling).
Is there more?
Given the very traditional, slow-cooking style of the Bocca di Lupo, it’s somewhat surprising to see the open kitchen and the long eating bar at the front. The seating area is more like you’d imagine, but with no table cloths and simple tables. It’s not overly decorated, so don’t expect to act out that scene from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”! This is not flimsy and cliché. It’s functional. The kitchen and the food will speak for itself.
My lunch companion ordered a chocolate marzipan ball with rum and raisins and forced me to eat half. I was somewhat… reluctant to even touch this little grenade of fat. But… E ‘stato fantastico! Probably the first fresh piece of chocolate and marzipan I’ve ever had! The rum added a much appreciated sting, and helped the dessert balance on that thin edge without tripping.
And finally: Half-sized courses.
It’s so easy that it’s almost shameful that it hasn’t been adopted as the general rule: Bocca di Lupo serves half-sized portions of everything on the menu. Even if you’re not starving, you can still join your friend or colleague for a great meal. Even if you’re almost broke, you can still have a great meal without smashing your piggy bank to pieces. It’s very smart and very untraditional. I once wrote that Jacob Kenedy should receive some kind of award for this invention and sure enough, this establishment now holds a Bib Gourmand-award, which is Guide Michelin’s special category for restaurants that serve fine food with a sensible price tag.
Oh yes, this is a truly amazing place to eat. The only reason why I have not added a fifth star already, is because I only had a quick pasta and half a dessert for lunch there. I need (and want) more input to deliver a more informed review. But Bocca di Lupo will be a mandatory stop on every trip I make to London from now on.
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street
For online bookings, click on this bold text.
When on the restaurant’s homepage, a click on the ‘Book Now’ button will do the trick.
By the way: Urbanspoon rocks!
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