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Italian style and tip-top quality at Vico

03 February, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

Skewers of spiedini

IT takes nerve to launch a swish restaurant on the busiest junction in the West End.

Vico is slap bang on Cambridge Circus, opposite the sell-out Harry Potter show. Outside, it’s a noisy blur of buses and traffic. Step through the doors and you’ll discover Italian food of the highest order – including possibly London’s best ice cream.

Vico got off to a wobbly start. It was the second restaurant from chef Jacob Kenedy, who opened the brilliant Bocca di Lupo in 2008. The original Vico concept was different: high quality fast food which you bought by the weight – just like in some of the markets and shops of Italy. But it didn’t catch on. So Vico has been reinvented as a proper sit-down restaurant – and appears to be thriving. We pitched up for dinner on a Saturday night. The 80-cover restaurant was packed and buzzy, the atmosphere (given the location) surprisingly warm and cosy.

A cascade of light bulbs – fairy lights for grown-ups – are strung across the high, glossy black ceiling. Expect flowers on the tables and plush, comfy chairs – an upgrade from the unforgiving plastic stools that once filled the space.

Roman-style pizza from Vico

Vico serves up proper, creative Italian food – a mix of simple street food and more sophisticated trattoria cooking. Antipasti include a fritto misto (deep fried seafood), a pumpkin salad or a dazzling dish of chunks of crisp fried rabbit with wild fennel, thyme, lemon zest and rocket.

There’s a short list of spiedini – skewers of grilled meats and fish, such as plump prawns interlaced with fennel. Pastas are the star attraction. Our best dish by far were al dente ravioli stuffed with a rich oxtail ragu then dusted with cocoa powder and pine nuts: a dazzling contrast of unctuous filling and bitter, invigorating pure chocolate.

The pizzas look impressive – crisp and blistered in the Roman style. We shared a fillet of sea bream as a main course, served with tender squid, shaved puntarelle (a type of winter chicory), lemon and chilli. The only duff note was a side dish of lentils – too sweet and overcooked for my taste. Service was outstanding. (A special nod to Damiano, our waiter, who was efficient, charming and totally gorgeous.)

Prices are fair. For a quick bite before an evening out, expect to pay around £20-£30 per head. The wines and cocktails are chosen with care. My friend recommended her “negrotini” of vodka, Campari, red vermouth and a spritz. They offer a short dessert list, but order the gelato made at Gelupo – the owners’ ice cream parlour that trades opposite Bocca di Lupo on nearby Archer Street.

Flavours are imaginative and seasonal, such as blood orange or rhubarb sorbet.

In most capital cities, the food served at a grand, central location like this would be overpriced tourist fodder. Vico, in contrast, offers style and tip top quality. As a Londoner, it’s a potent symbol of why this metropolis is second to none.

Vico
1 Cambridge Circus, WC2H
020 7379 0303
www.eatvico.com

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