After a long hard day at work, all I yearned for was a cold gin and tonic and some friendly banter. I couldn’t face the realisation that had I gone home, all I would have ended up doing is watch crap tv and order a takeaway. A few messages later, and the steak eating fiend who is @baconchop decided to join me for said beverage. A few beers, some chat, then home. Well, that was the plan anyway.
Inevitably after a few drinks, our thoughts started to wander to our rumbling bellies and food became a necessity. There may be a thousand places to eat in Soho, but when you are pushed for a decision, you end up wandering the streets listlessly, which is exactly the scenario we found ourselves in. I am not entirely sure how we found our way to Archer street, divine inspiration perhaps, but we stood outside Bocca di Lupo hoping they could squeeze us in. Located opposite its sister gelateria (Gelupo, see what they did there?) it peddles regional Italian food. Not particularly descriptive, but the smells emanating from the open kitchen were enough to convince us that this was definitely the right decision.
It was packed but as it was fairly late (9pm’ish) people had started to finish and leave and a few spaces began to appear, there was hope. The exceptional front of house (seriously lovely) told us to hold fire and she would seat us. Even the addition of Adam’s other half and friend didn’t throw her and a few minutes later, we were perched at the bar with our drinks in tow and a glorious view of the action to boot. As lovely as the main dining room looks, a seat at the bar provides entertainment, banter and beautiful aromas, and fuelled with wine and cocktails, we appeared to have lost the best part of our decision making function. We chose a few things, and left a few choices upto our waitress, and sat back to watch the show begin.
We watched the chefs throw things in the oil, assemble things on plates and chuck stuff on the grill intently, salivating and hoping that one of the delicious looking dishes was ours. The first things that arrived were a few morsels of fried goodness. Suppli (Roman arancini, of sorts) bocconcini (fried mozzarella balls) and stuffed olives (stuffed with minced pork and veal, so damn good) were lightly fried and redundant of grease.
Next was a simple salad of Shaved radish, celeriac & pecorino, garnished with pomegranates & truffle oil. This wasn’t something that either Adam or myself were going to order, but our delightful waitress (I will be harping on about the service we had on the night, it was amongst the best and most personable I have ever had in any restaurant) insisted on it and I am really glad she did. I was incredibly surprised by the combination of flavours, the rich earthy truffles, the crunch from the celeriac, the peppery radish and the bursts of sweetness from the pomegranates. Stunning flavours, and each recognisable.
The first round of dishes were rounded off with some of the lightest and most delicate calamari I have ever tasted, lightly floured, quickly dipped in boiling oil and produced fresh and greaseless. A squeeze of lemon and we were ready to go.
The pasta and risotto dishes were next. The finferli and asiago risotto was probably the low point of our meal. Packed with mushrooms, you can hardly accuse them of being stingy, but compared to everything else I ate, this was bland and a bit boring. The pork and veal agnolotti were exactly the opposite. Tiny, delicate little pasta parcels packed with flavour in a light sage and butter sauce. This dish totally blew my mind, and I have been hankering for a return visit just to try these again. A most wonderful end to our savouries.
We had eaten a huge amount for just two people, but having visited Gelupo across the road, there was no way I could leave without dessert. Managing to convince my dining companion that a chocolate spread made of mostly pigs blood was a good idea (the sanguinaccio was described to us as a funky nutella, must be what sold it), I opted for a somewhat safer option of an ice cream "surprise". A chocolate shell encasing two surprise flavours of ice cream. The first was chestnut, and being a big fan of nut based ice creams, I was very pleased. The name of the second escapes me, but was packed with candied fruit and tasted of Christmas.
This was one of the most enjoyable meals I have had in London, bar none. The food was exquisite, with surprising flavour combinations sitting side by side with simple but clean flavours. The service was stunning and worth visiting for the hospitality of the staff alone. There is still so much on the menu I am desperate to try, yet so many things I have already tried that I desperately want to order again. Yes, the meal was expensive, with it coming to about £60 a head with a few drinks, but when the experience leaves me wondering when my next visit is going to be, there are absolutely no complaints. I am already salivating at the mere thought of it.
Bocca di Lupo - 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB