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Bocca di Lupo


nikkib
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Just back from a late lunch at Soho's newest oepning Boca de lupo on archer Street. Hastened by both jan and Fays fantastic reviews yesterday I can wholeheartedly agree this is a great restaurant - one of my favourite new openings of the year. http://www.areyoureadytoorder.co.uk/ we shared lots of small dishes from the polenta, porcina and lardo (£11.50 for a small) fritto mare (squid, softshell crab and prawns) another fritto dish of sweetbreads and artichokes (delicious) and some fried bread with squaquerone (sp?) cheese and salami and speck. panzanella with poussin and some tuna tartare. The food was delicious, service friendly, helpful and knowledgable- they recommended some graet wines by the glass for us. The space is beautifully decked out, if not quite finished. a 20 seater bar and 45 odd seater restaurant at the back (like a reverse terra brindisa) with a 12-24 seater private dining room downstairs. lunch for 3 with 2 glasses of wine each, 3 coffees and a dessert to share (rum baba) was £160 but you could easily be in and out for £20 p/h . They do a one dish pre/post theatre menu of around 6 dishes all costing a tenner (give or take a couple of quid) I would wholeheartedly recommend Bocca - try it while you can still get in!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Thanks for the heads-up Nikkib!

We went there yesterday night, to see whether it could compete with Yauatcha as a "last minute we need cheap but good quality dinner" spot in central London.

The bread and olives were ok. Similar to what you'd get in an Italian deli.

The chestnut and cep (porcini) soup was divine, easily the best dish. Bone marrow risotto with barolo tasted like a risotto with barolo. Maybe my taste buds aren't good enough to detect the bone marrow (which I haven't tasted in about 10 years now). The foie gras sausage was decent although a bit more foie gras would have been nice (again we had trouble detecting it, a faint hint of foie gras smell if you concentrate on it) although the barley served with it had a lovely texture. Finally the spaghettini of lobster was just that - pasta al dente with lobster in a light tomato sauce, with four mussels. Tasty, exactly what we expected, and totally worth it.

Desserts were disappointing. Ice cream with brioche does not work especially if the brioche is that salty and too tough to easily break apart with a fork. The ice cream on its own was brilliant especially pistachio and chestnut.

Bitter chocolate ice cream was intense and beautiful (too much for my dining partner so I got to finish it hehehe) but the burnt almond granita was quite dull. I think the problem is that you eat the chocolate first and by the time you get to the granita your taste buds and nose are overwhelmed with fantastic, intense cocoa leaving very little chance of you actually tasting the almond.

Maybe the sanguinaccio was worth it. However, the desserts we had really weren't worth £7 each - especially since Scoop is really close by and makes similar quality ice cream for a lot less!

£51 for two inc. service for 4 small dishes and two desserts (we drank tap water). A bit expensive, but if you have the cash and you enjoy simple slow food, it's decent. We'll stick to Yauatcha although we might come back just to have a large bowl of that amazing chestnut and cep soup!

Edit - atmosphere: simple wooden tables, paper napkins, cutlery was very nice. The place was full of students. There are paintings on the wall of food (mainly meat) which are simple and pleasant to look at, it does really make you hungrier. Especially the large piece of beef being sliced with the quail on the side. Friendly Italian waiter with a voice from the depths of the Earth. I am a bit afraid to have offended the maitre d' as I had trouble understanding his strong (Scottish?) accent!

Edited by Roger le goéland (log)
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My experience couldn't have started in a worse way - 40 minutes wait on our booking time and the situation being handled awkwardly by the manager.

When I finally was led to the small, dirty, stained, unclothed wooden table I thought: here we go, another ridiculous place for incomprehending Soho-types and Brit-crits happy to rave for eating in disgusting conditions and paying fine dining prices for fake and substandard Italian trattoria cuisine.

I was in the worst of moods and ready to be negative on every aspect of the food.

Yet the bread, olives and olive oil (always a tell-tale sign in an Italian place) moved the mood up one notch (nothing spectacular, but good; already an improvement on the vast majority).

A (complimentary) initial seafood fritto misto showed cooking skill and high quality of raw materials (as well as a manager showing the care he seemed to lack in the beginning).

The many other dishes that followed left me with the impression of a chef who is able to capture the essence of Italian regional cusine (notably Sicilian), with some personal interpretation. Fine dining it ain't, nor it aims to be. The flavours are intense but most of the times too bold, sometimes covering each other and lacking balance, with an excess of seasoning. He may be still striving too hard to attain the heartiness that most seek in an Italian dish.

Once he relaxes and smoothes the edges, his food will be perfect, high level, trattoria food. Even now, I left satisfied and I'd have been more than happy to have had this sort of meal in Italy (something impossible anyway, in a regional place you find just that one region represented). The service overall was very good (don't expect a knowledge of the dishes at the level of high end restaurants).

A full report with pics will follow.

Edited by Man (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...
Two contrasting reviews came out today. Andy  Hayler gives it an OK review, whilst Coren thinks it is the best thing ever.

I relish the fact that somebody who professes to be so punctilious as Coren gets the spelling of the Chef's name repeatedly wrong - we ourselves were alerted by Kenedy that his name is not Kennedy :smile:

(edited to correct (some of) my own spelling mistakes)

Edited by Man (log)
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Two contrasting reviews came out today. Andy  Hayler gives it an OK review, whilst Coren thinks it is the best thing ever.

I relish the fact that somebody who professes to so punctilious as Coren gets the spelling of the Chef's name repeatedly wrong - we ourselves were alerted by Kenedy that his name his not Kennedy :smile:

andy hayler can't even spell raisen...

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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My experience couldn't have started in a worse way - 40 minutes wait on our booking time and the situation being handled awkwardly by the manager.

When I finally was led to the small, dirty, stained, unclothed wooden table I thought: here we go, another ridiculous place for incomprehending Soho-types and Brit-crits happy to rave for eating in disgusting conditions and paying fine dining prices for fake and substandard Italian trattoria cuisine.

I was in the worst of moods and ready to be negative on every aspect of the food.

Yet the bread, olives and olive oil (always a tell-tale sign in an Italian place) moved the mood up one notch (nothing spectacular, but good; already an improvement on the vast majority).

A (complimentary) initial seafood fritto misto showed cooking skill and high quality of raw materials (as well as a manager showing the care he seemed to lack in the beginning).

The many other dishes that followed left me with the impression of a chef who is able to capture the essence of Italian regional cusine (notably Sicilian), with some personal interpretation. Fine dining it ain't, nor it aims to be. The flavours are intense but most of the times too bold, sometimes covering each other and lacking balance, with an excess of seasoning. He may be still striving too hard to attain the heartiness that most seek in an Italian dish.

Once he relaxes and smoothes the edges, his food will be perfect, high level, trattoria food. Even now, I left satisfied and I'd have been more than happy to have had this sort of meal in Italy (something impossible anyway, in a  regional place you find just that one region represented).  The service overall was very good (don't expect a knowledge of the dishes at the level of high end restaurants).

A full report with pics will follow.

Just read the piece in your blog, and everything else since then, its a great blog, consequently bookmarked :biggrin:

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My experience couldn't have started in a worse way - 40 minutes wait on our booking time and the situation being handled awkwardly by the manager.

When I finally was led to the small, dirty, stained, unclothed wooden table I thought: here we go, another ridiculous place for incomprehending Soho-types and Brit-crits happy to rave for eating in disgusting conditions and paying fine dining prices for fake and substandard Italian trattoria cuisine.

I was in the worst of moods and ready to be negative on every aspect of the food.

Yet the bread, olives and olive oil (always a tell-tale sign in an Italian place) moved the mood up one notch (nothing spectacular, but good; already an improvement on the vast majority).

A (complimentary) initial seafood fritto misto showed cooking skill and high quality of raw materials (as well as a manager showing the care he seemed to lack in the beginning).

The many other dishes that followed left me with the impression of a chef who is able to capture the essence of Italian regional cusine (notably Sicilian), with some personal interpretation. Fine dining it ain't, nor it aims to be. The flavours are intense but most of the times too bold, sometimes covering each other and lacking balance, with an excess of seasoning. He may be still striving too hard to attain the heartiness that most seek in an Italian dish.

Once he relaxes and smoothes the edges, his food will be perfect, high level, trattoria food. Even now, I left satisfied and I'd have been more than happy to have had this sort of meal in Italy (something impossible anyway, in a  regional place you find just that one region represented).  The service overall was very good (don't expect a knowledge of the dishes at the level of high end restaurants).

A full report with pics will follow.

Just read the piece in your blog, and everything else since then, its a great blog, consequently bookmarked :biggrin:

Many thanks CalumC!

Back to the Coren review, I am also slightly amused by his firm convictions on what 'authentic' Italian food must be. Am I missing the irony in his statetement that he can't find it in Italy? No: I think the irony is simply not there.

Is it the Tuscan holidays in Chiantishire, I wonder, where that myth about 'authentic' Italian cuisine being necessarily simple things served alone on the plate was born?

I truly believe that a certain type of British gastrocriticism is holding back Italian cuisine in London and the UK in general, widening the gap between the spectrum of cuisine types you can enjoy in contemporary Italy, and the astonishingly conservative and narrow offering in the greatest city on earth, of all places.

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Two contrasting reviews came out today. Andy  Hayler gives it an OK review, whilst Coren thinks it is the best thing ever.

i think andy is quite a harsh rater of places, we were part of a group lunch at the sportsman recently and his overall score seemed harsh considering how much he seemed to like it at the time (to be fair he does cover this in his review)

you don't win friends with salad

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Two contrasting reviews came out today. Andy  Hayler gives it an OK review, whilst Coren thinks it is the best thing ever.

i think andy is quite a harsh rater of places, we were part of a group lunch at the sportsman recently and his overall score seemed harsh considering how much he seemed to like it at the time (to be fair he does cover this in his review)

Is that because of his scoring system? Re-reading the Sportsman review it seems very positive and I always thought a 6/10 from Andy was very high praise.

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A good lunch here today-at the level of a good Trattoria or excellent home cook, and a nice feel to the place. Trippa alla Romana would have been tremendous with imported tripe but I don't know if that's allowed-the English is far too soft owing to its processing. Artichoke and sweetbreads were only fairly well fried, Brawn was excellent, Risotto with Barolo was 95%-great flavour, a little too much free liquid, Pork chop and beans with pork rind very nicely done. Some thought has gone into the wine list.

Fairly priced, too, and recommended.

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Went on Saturday for lunch. Had six small dishes between us and 1 side. To start was a good prawn rissoto which had obviously been made with good stock and was well executed. This was the best dish of the meal for me and is a must have on any return visit. With this we also had the 'fried bread' with cottage cheese and meats. This by contrast was the worst (and only dud) dish of the meal and just underwhelmed on every level.

After this the chef comped us a very nice octopus salad while we were waiting we had a decent chunk of swordfish (well cooked avoiding the dryness which can so often occur) with a well dressed salad and the now infamous porcini and polenta with lardo. This dish was good but no more. To me it just tasted a bit too much like a fried breakfast and was a touch too greasy (although maybe I should have expected this). The porcini's however were the best I've had in quite some time and were firm yet golden and with great flavour - and they weren't stingy on them either.

For the last set of courses we had the foie gras and pork sausage with farro and porcini and a whole poissin. The sausage was again very good indeed and for me this was probably the second major highlight of the meal with the faro (a new one on me) a lovely match. The whole poisin was quartered and well dressed with fine fresh salad leaves and a good dressing but at the end of the day was just poussin. The food was very good although if anything they had a tendency to slighlty over season.

Overall a very good time was had and sitting at the bar in front of the kitchin was fantastic fun and definately the best way to experience the place (and choose what dishes you fancy). Service was also good and competent but no more. Overall with a carafe of wine and two apertifs the total bill with tip came to just over £80 which was very good value indeed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sat at the bar/kitchen for a post-opera snack. We thought it would be refreshing to have some proper food before facing the 00:04 from King's Cross.

No chestnut and cep ("porcini") soup so we had to be creative and actually read the menu.

Fried eel with red prawns was disappointing. A couple of slices of battered mandarins, the prawns themselves were small and one had become half brown. The eel was all of 4-5cm long. We are a bit worried - one of the cooks pointed out the prawn container to the chef, who took a large brown prawn out (bearing in mind those were cooked prawns) before putting it back in and covering the container with kitchen wrap. He took the container away. Could they have been off, or just a bit oxidised?

Lentils with pistachio sausage were alright (the pear mustarda was fantastic) and boiled beef with green herbs, pine kernels and a little potato was also pretty good.

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I'm getting the distinct feeling this is becoming the most over-hyped place in town.

Dropped in before xmas. Its good but not life-changing. Certainly not as good as the notices suggest. The seafood is fresh but not at the really great ingredient quality you expect from somewhere this garlanded (thinking on the level of a really good Japanese place - say sushi hiro).

The other peculiar thing I noticed is the menu read fantastically well but had a curious habit of completely failing to exploit dishes with premium ingredients. In a wonderful sounding risotto with bone marrow the marrow was completely undetectable. Orange-muscate head cheese too where had no idea where the orange muscat was (I think it was the wine used to brush a glaze over the head cheese, if I remember). Same with the foie gras and pork sausage. Picking over the sausage foie gras chunks where they but they were entirely overcooked little livery studs - not surprising given the dish is prepared by basically roasting in a very hot oven for ten minutes. It was simply a badly thought out way of using what should be a very good ingredient - I got the feeling the chef had wanted to put dishes on the menu with "premium" ingredients for the sake of the ingredient themselves rather than because it made any contribution to the dish.

Maybe it was just me being hyper-sensitive, but it was something that niggled me.

J

PS although the fresh almond milk was absolutely lovely

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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  • 3 weeks later...
AA Gill (should one take him seriously?)

It seems not. He had the option of getting standard-size dishes, he had the option not to share. He chose instead to do both things, only to complain about the small portions and the sharing (or was he forced at gunpoint by the Sicilian waiter?). Sometimes I wonder why he even bothers to offer a review, in which he is clearly not interested, at the end of his articles: wouldn't it be better for everybody concerned if he limited himself to telling his entertaning stories? Thank god for egullet and the bloggers for serious reviews.

I agree anyway with the sentiment expressed above that this is simply a good, possibly very good unpretentious trattoria and not fine dining, let alone a gastronomic paradise. But I'd still spend my money at Bocca di Lupo than at Theo Randall's, that one indeed the most over-hyped producer of Italian cuisine in London.

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Well possibly, Man, but when I went to Randall for lunch it was empty, unlike Bocca Di Lupo. Though Randall is a grim venue the cooking is very much more technically accomplished than at Bocca Di Lupo-so which one is overhyped?

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  • 1 year later...

I thought I would revive this thread as we are currently comparing Italian "small plate" places and along with Zucca and Polpo this fits the bill nicely. There is now quite a choice in our great City.

We tried loads of times to get in here when the place was red hot, but to no avail, perhaps not helped by only able to take weekend tables and living out of town did not help matters. I recall even driving up to the door one Saturday lunch and having my extremely persuasive wife plead with the manager for a table. Still no luck.

The place is exactly as I remember it, with its cosy bar/eating area sporting happy chatty people, although no where near as busy as it was.

image_0001.jpg

Some of the chefs in action, although no Jacob Kenedy, but as listed on the menu perhaps sous chefs, Alberto, Stefano, and Daniele. Give us a smile guys.

image_0002.jpg

Bread was decent quality, especially the onion topped Focaccia.

Good olive oil, quality salt and olives completed the picture.

image_0009.jpg

There is a choice of small or large plates also listed by region, for example, Veneto, Piedonte, Bologna, etc, etc.

We went for the small plates and kicked of with an extremelly refreshing and zingy combo of Shaved Radish, celeriac & pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil dressing.(£6)

This was a recommend from our waiter and we would perhaps have not ordered it if not for him I,m glad we did.

image_0008.jpg

Next up was, Fritto di paranza (£9.50) A selection of tasty, crisply battered prawns, squid and "baby fishes" which I forgot to ask what, however it all ate well especially the crunch down to virtually nothing prawns, yum, yum.

image_0006.jpg

Black figs, bresaola & stracchino ( Italian soft cows milk cheese)(£6) was served on a wooden platter and first impressions were good except for the mean portion of bresaola, and I am able to make comparison to Zucca and Polpo here so it is not nit picking.

Quality of ingredients were of course what you would expect, but " Can I have some more Sir "

image_0010.jpg

Its clear they have spent a few bob on the place and since its been open it has weathered well. Our table in a cosy corner was not my first choice but my wife does not like sitting at a bar (much to my annoyance) so this was ok-ish. Oversize oil paintings of food laden tables line one wall, and a couple of flower paintings the other.

Looking at the paintings whets the appetite and Pork an veal agnolotti with butter and sage (£8.50) arrived in time to avert my gaze back to the table.

We enjoyed this dish, although for me the pasta could have done with another minute or two of cooking, having said that my wife disagreed.

image_0007.jpg

Our last two dishes were Sardines "beccafino"- with breadcrumbs, pinenuts, & raisins (£7.50) and a house speciality sausage, Laganega, a thin pork sausage with nutmeg, cinnamon, & cloves, served pink. (£6.50)

image_0003.jpg

The sardines were a winner, deep flavour from the fish, evened out a bit by the toasted pinenuts, breadcrumbs, and the sweetness of the raisins. Good portion size also, especially when compared to the sausage dish.

The photo was taken by my wife (excuses, excuses :laugh: ) so the fish is obscured a bit by the bush of rocket.

Now I like sausage, cause I,m a bloke of course, but her indoors, has an aversion, ( perhaps like most ladies? ) I think this dates back to chewing on a bit of gristle or "jaw wobbler" as she refers them too. Shame that but it means a bit more for me of course. Oh, and it was pretty decent, if a little salty.

We had a carafe of Casone rosso wine (£11) for 500mm which was decent enough and spot on for me as I was driving.

All in all we enjoyed Bocco, not as much as Zucca of course, as Zucca quite frankly is unbeatable.

I still have to write up my Polpo review, but again by way of comparison perhaps Polpo and here are about even food wise but Polpo loses out by spending zilch on creature comfort.

Service was good, informed and mostly efficient with one caveat.

We were parked on a two hour time limit in a traffic warden swamped Soho, I made the waiter aware of this and paid the bill in cash. The bill including a clearly stated 12.5% service charge came to £61.88 and I offered £70 in cash. My wife went to the loo to do what ladies do, taking the amount of time ladies do and still my change has not arrived at the table.

Cue my walk to the bar, till area where I am thanked for my business but still no change.

Now I have to annoyingly ask for a copy of the bill and MY CHANGE PLEASE. Which takes minutes and more minutes to arrive with apologies.

I am prepared to accept that this was not a deliberate attempt to screw me out of £8, but this has happened to me before at a Michelin starred place ( I am sure deliberately ) and it left a nasty taste.

I am convinced a lot people are confused or maybe too shy to ask for a couple of quid back and just walk away putting it down to experience.

As I say I am prepared to accept this was an oversight and in no way intended, however it did make me feel very uncomfortable, and I am by no means a wallflower.

Managers beware, your reputation is at risk if you allow your staff to try this on.

Edited by david goodfellow (log)

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Perhaps they assumed you were an American tourist unused to our ways and percentages. :laugh:

My dulcet tones, even when I,m angry, can not be mistaken :laugh:

I really hope our American friends don,t get ripped off like I was at a restaurant on South Beach, some years ago now.

Still back on topic, its worth a try if your in the area.

In the main we enjoyed it.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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