When I was at Bocca di Lupo a year ago, I had a lot of fun, but the service and food were a mixed bag. I left thinking that while I wouldn’t object to going again, I also wasn’t dying to revisit.
However, not having been to Bocca di Lupo and being a lover of all things Italian, Jon has long wanted to go, and with the recent buzz around good-quality, low-to-mid-priced Italians opening in London, the time seemed right to revisit BdL. Which is how we found ourselves there for dinner last week.
First impressions were great. Still the warm, exciting atmosphere that I recall from my last visit, and the flattering lighting never hurts, either. The bar seats were packed with diners who appeared to be having a good time, and the few tables at the back of the room were also full. Not too shabby for a Tuesday evening.
Jon and I started with assorted fried goodies, which you order by the piece. Fried artichoke (carciofi alla giudia) was especially good, with a nutty crunch to the exterior, and a moist, buttery heart. Fried courgette flower included a powerful kick of anchovy, which I love, and both snacks brought back memories of Rome, a definite bonus. Suppli and fried bocconcini were fine, but the bland comforts of fried cheese inevitably paled in comparison to the flavorsome artichoke and courgette flower.
Our pasta courses were both very good, though I slightly preferred the spicy sweetness of the orecchiette to the creamy nuttiness of the nettle-and-ricotta ravioli. The walnut sauce on the ravioli was a bit too heavy given that pasta was just a “course” for us (i.e., there was still a meat course to follow).
Foie gras Italian sausage was a revelation. Usually, I’m skeptical of any dish where foie gras is an ingredient – it usually turns out to be a waste of foie gras. But here, the foie’s creamy, rich meatiness was matched perfectly with the crumbly, fennel-scented pork of the sausage. Without the foie gras, the sausage would have been pretty lean and dry, in fact. The coarse, slightly-nutty fregola absorbed and blended with the sausage’s intense flavor. This is a dish I’ll be craving as the days get darker and colder.
We skipped dessert in order to walk across the street to BdL’s gelateria, Gelupo, which is a worth a visit in its own right
With a couple of sides priced at £5 and a £40 bottle of wine, our dinner for two totaled £98, which I thought was great value given the quality of our food. If you skipped the wine, all this food for £30 a person would be almost a steal, really. In fact, Bocca di Lupo is what nearby and much-loved Polpo could be if Polpo took reservations. And had good lighting. And a happenin’ bar.
I’m already looking forward to going back. This time, it won’t take me a year.
Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB; 0207 734 2223; closest Tube station: Piccadilly Circus.
Gelupo gelateria, 7 Archer Street, W1D 7AU (i.e., across the street from Bocca di Lupo); 0207 287 5555. Open until 1 am on weekends! And at the back of the gelateria, there’s a small grocery where you can buy foie gras sausage to cook at home. What’s not to love?