There is something that is an absolute priority for me when I visit any place. Courtesy. I don’t care how amazing your food is, how excellent your decoration, how many snooty Chelsea – bred people you’ve got sitting around, you are in the service industry/ hospitality sector and you will piss me off if you are rude. This is where the Radio rooftop bar failed spectacularly. This is where Bocca di Lupo wins an epic victory.
I had read good things about the restaurant and we dropped by a few weeks back (when we went to Polpetto instead which was not a bad thing). The lady behind the computer was welcoming and very polite, explaining why she couldn’t accommodate us at that time, when she would be able to and that she hoped she would be able to sit us another time. There, that isn’t so difficult is it?
This time around we booked ahead for 22.00 on Saturday (we are Greek, eating late is a national sport). We found ourselves in the West End about 45 minutes earlier so we called ahead. Should we come now or go for a drink and delay a bit? The fit us in earlier, which was very nice of them.
The front part of the restaurant is the part we really loved. A marble chef’s counter, surprisingly comfortable bar stools, space to move and breathe and eat without mistaking the next person’s plate for your own. The actual restaurant part at the back is nothing impressive. Normal and somewhat crowded I would say. Because my Italian – savvy significant other loves chef’s counters we had booked for that part of the restaurant and we had a great time watching the madness of cooking and the good humored banter between the cooks – some in Italian some in English.
Bocca di Lupo has the now famous menu noting each dish’s region and “BDL” for the ones that their chef has created. It also has the great option of small and large plates – excuse me if I call this meze style instead of tapas style. Small plates are actually great if you want to sample a number of things and that’s what we went for. You will *not* find carbonara on this menu (needless to say, a good thing).
The wild boar porchetta with fennel salad was surprisingly yummy (their fennel fresh and full of taste), the mozzarella bocconcini light and fluffy, the asparagus expertly grilled (though I think the parmigiano just drowns out their great taste). Favourite dishes were the nettle & potato gnocchi with braised kid goat ragù (melts in the mouth) and the grilled lamb sweetbread & artichoke served on chilli bruschetta (all excellently cooked with the bruschetta giving you an almighty kick of heat).
The wine list if NOT to be sneezed at. The gentleman informs me that the selection is wide and rich. If you’re splurging there are the Barolo wines – apparently a revelation. We went for an excellent Barbera at less than £50 a bottle. Now, I do *not* drink that much. I drunk half the bottle and loved it, it was that good.
The dessert menu is equally inventive and avoids any boring items. Ice creams are from Gelupo (their sister gelateria across the street – here’s my post on that one) and I went for the Gelato cone Bounty – coconut & chocolate dipped in chocolate. The coconut was smooth, the chocolate was intense, the cone nice and crunchy. The gentleman went for Le palle del nonno, being somewhat brave (google what le palle del nonno means) with deep-fried ricotta & chocolate. The noises he was making with his mouth full would be enough to convince you to try them.
Oh, by the way, the facilities are spotlessly clean. I don’t know why nobody mentions this when writing about their restaurant experiences, most toilets in London restaurants are a bloody disgrace. I tend to trust a place more when the backstage spaces are well appointed and clean. A very happily drunk gentleman bumped into me on his way to the male doors (sinks are shared) and when I explained that he had not made a mistake and walked into the ladies, he expressed his undying love to me. Seriously, I love that these mad scenes keep happening to me.
I have to admit that we felt the Polpetto food to be better. But, significantly, we would more happily go again to Bocca di Lupo as the food is really good, the wine list excellent, the environment great and the staff so happy, polite and courteous.
I will consider the whole thing a ‘win’ then, shall I?
Disclosure: We went to Bocca di Lupo on 03 May 2014 and paid for our meal in full. No prior discussion with the restaurant took place (apart from booking).
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB
020 7734 2223