Bocca di Lupo. We wolfed it down.
Bocca di Lupo. In the wolf’s mouth. Apparently it’s used by Italians to wish you good luck.
It was a wet Wednesday and I was tired. The table was booked for 7.45, which is fine, even for me with my pensioner special penchant, but when you’ve been out the night before for a deal celebration and you are no longer in the first flush of youth, even 7.45 can seem like a challenge. Not to mention the burst disc in my spine. But I won’t let a small matter like being unable to walk properly put me off my food. My trusty Hailo cab got me there. What? You haven’t heard of it? Those of you in the Hailo dark, check out the app. It’s a lifesaver, especially to the more mature restaurant-goer, not to get home via tube late in the evening or wait for a bus in the rain. People are always surprised that I like a bit of a bus ride. I like the pace and the fact I’m not underground. And that I can do Twitter not that I’m at all addicted, you understand. But night buses are another animal altogether.
And I know everyone has already been here and it’s not new and it was the place and it’s fun and funky and buzzy but I hadn’t. I have, however, frequented that ode to sugar and fat, over the road at Gelupo. One of the best Gelaterias in London. The dairy-free chocolate ice-cream is a thing of beauty. Save room and pop over the road for a cone after. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It’s a fairly compact, narrow restaurant, this. Long bar I’d like to eat at when I have a functioning spine, and tables at the rear. Oh my God, though, the noise. I was tired and am always somewhat more intolerant than usual in that state, but really. Shrieking tables of excitable Japanese girls, loud Londoners, tables very close together and hard surfaces for it to bounce off make it a perfect noise-storm.
I was here with C and (to add to the list of regular dramatis personae) his son J, who is quite the food critic himself. A very sophisticated palate for one so young. And always willing to try new things. Happy to let me order, both of them, pandering to my inner and outer control freak. Bless them.
C wanted to do the conventional starter/main/dessert combo but J and I persuaded him that he was mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s fine, but if you are like me at all (and if you are then we will either get on very well, or not at all) then you will want to try much of the menu. In fact, next time (for there will be a next time) I am planning to go with a group of at least six, so we can do the menu justice. We barely scratched the surface.
Things I loved:
◊ the fact that almost every dish comes in two sizes;
◊the fact that they tell you which region of Italy the dish comes from;
◊ the fact that the food is not safe and dull and the menu gave me a frisson of delight as I read it.
On menus like this where there are lots of dishes, I always try to choose something that wouldn’t be my first choice, so that I don’t always go for the things I know that I’m going to love. I like to be surprised. To a point. And the salad of Radish, Celeriac, Pomegranate and Pecorino with Truffle dressing surprised me a lot. I’d never have thought about truffle with those ingredients, but that is definitely something I’m going to try at home. It was a brilliant combination. Also delicious was the Sea Bream Carpaccio with Orange and Rosemary. Again, orange? But it made the dish for me.
Then my very favourite – and not only because I am of the faith but mostly because I have never been able to find Artichoke alla Giudia in England. It’s one of the best known dishes of Roman Jewish cuisine. :possibly the only one. The name helps, I expect. It’s deep-fried so obviously I am going to love it. And I do. We have two. I could have had six, on my own.
Stand out of the other dishes were the Saffron Risotto with Bone Marrow and Gremolata, (lemon zest, olive oil garlic and parsley). Unctuous and deeply flavoured, the saffron was present and pungent but balanced by the gremolata. and the bone marrow gave it meaty depth. I could feel my arteries harden as I ate it. Slightly less successful the Foie Gras Luganega Sausage and Farro and Porcini mushroom. The sausage had a strange aftertaste, possibly fennel, and a pungency which wasn’t altogether pleasant.
And then the table was divided over the Braised Beef Cheek with Chocolate, Pine Nuts and Raisins. I don’t remember the raisins at all, and the men thought it was a little dull, but I really liked it and the chocolate in the sauce gave it a richness that elevated it above the ordinary stew. It doesn’t look pretty, I’ll grant them that. There were also roast potatoes, with ever-so-of-the-moment wild garlic. Tick that seasonal box.
The blood orange salad, whilst clearly designed for another meal altogether, maybe one involving fish was another impulse buy and one I didn’t regret. Again an unexpected herb – this time oregano. Again, it worked brilliantly.
Full, we declined dessert. I noticed the rather challenging ‘Sanguiaccio – sweet paté of pigs’ blood and chocolate.’ I’m afraid it didn’t change my mind. Leaving the restaurant, I looked longingly at Gelupo, and did that tentative – ‘does anyone fancy…‘ thing, but I got the immortal words – you don’t need. Me? As if.