Though “Bocca Di Lupo” translates as “mouth of the wolf” – for you should come here when you’re as hungry as an animal – it creates food worthy of the gods. Since its opening in November 2008, this place has been something of an Italian institution on London’s restaurants scene. The quality of its food, its top notch wine list, and its legendary name give Bocca a true buzz. My foodie colleague from the States and I had both picked out this spot as the venue for our firm’s Christmas dinner. And excellent choice it was: not only for Christmas, but it also my last supper with the firm. Though this review is scant in photos, it was a Last Supper to remember so you’ll just have to trust my words.
Walking into this place, you meet the bar overlooking the kitchen. With its glamorous marble counters, it would definitely be my favourite spot to dine. Sitting knee-to-knee, sharing a succession of plates, perched on stools would be date-night deluxe. As we were a party of 8, however, and this was definitely not a date, we were in the moodily lit dining room out back, with closely packed tables. Sitting at the very corner of the room, I had an excellent view of the busy space, as well as the rustic, simple paintings of Renaissance foods on the opposite wall.
Before we ordered wine to share, we each ordered a cocktail to enjoy alongside the appertif of olives and focaccia that were already laid out on our arrival. There’s always something to nibble here. In Italianate style, I went for the classic bellini, a simple combo of peach and prosecco. It was certainly a strong one – Bocca Di Lupo clearly takes their bellinis seriously and serve them in long glasses. I also sampled by colleague’s Amaretto Sour and though this is never a go-to drink for me, it was surprisingly the star of the bar this evening. More on their Amaretti to follow…
Now onto the food. Chef Jacob Kennedy was for many years at Moro, and the food here similarly has an unfancy charm about it: it’s about simple ideas, done very well. It’s great how you can mix and match the sizes of any dish on the menu: you can pick either a small dish (costing around a fiver) or a large (for about double that) depending on whether you’re ordering a starter or main, or your general appetite. Very democratic, convivial, and sharing-style.
For starters, I went for the Truffled radish, celeriac, pomegranate & pecorino salad (£7) which had been rated – just that morning – as one of London top’s 100 dishes by TimeOut. The aroma and power of the truffle sang through the dish, not in an overpowering way – which truffle has the potential to be – but in a totally harmonious ensemble. The delicate pecorino shavings seasoned the plate very well too.
For mains, I knew exactly what I wanted: the Pumpkin & amaretti capellacci with butter and sage (£14). I’d ordered the same pasta on my last time trip here – around five years ago. Though Bocca’s menus change everyday – twice a day, in fact – this dish appears to have stood the test of time. It’s not one to forget. I’d even encouraged my colleagues to order the same as a starter and they’re weren’t disappointed. The amaretti balanced the sweetness of the pumpkin effortlessly well and the buttery sauce was a herby zeitgeist. Even the thought of the pasta still makes me smile. It’s not to be missed.
Now onto the finale. The best desert of any meal for me – especially Italian – is always gelato. And the finale of milk-free espresso gelato was music to my ears. Gelupo-originated gelato that was sans dairy, caffeinated, and on the menu! Christmas has come early. Though I still enjoyed a single espresso to sip – having started enjoying these shots post-meal this week.
Though Bocca has been well-lauded by reviewers left, right, and centre, and when this happens, restaurants have the potential to become too big for their boots/disappoint, at its heart this place serves honest food. It even honours the diverse regions of Italy’s cuisine, as earmarked on the food menu which reads like a wine menu. Though wines really do come from the places that they’re labelled, honouring the source of food is worthwhile. My pasta, for instance, is homage to Lombardia, whilst the Shaved radish salad is a little bite of Umbria. Bocca is everything you want from a Soho restaurant: simple, smart, and sassy – difficult to find in Soho these days.
Bocca Di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7BB