Many happy returns … from me, that is!
As it celebrates its 10th birthday, Soho's intriguing Bocca di Lupo is still thriving
08 June, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
‘Ten years is an eternity for restaurants in the capital. But no wonder Bocca di Lupo is still thriving’
I NEVER tire of Bocca di Lupo, an Italian restaurant in Soho that’s celebrating its 10th birthday. The small place is often full, so it’s wise to book. But don’t bother with the dozen or so tables at the back. The prized seats are up at long marble bar, where you can watch the brigade of chefs at work.
My wife and I walked past the other night, en route to review somewhere else. But I couldn’t resist a glimpse inside – and two rare empty stools were waiting, as if by magic.
Ten years is an eternity for restaurants in the capital. But no wonder Bocca di Lupo is still thriving: the atmosphere is casual and fizzy; the food and wine intriguing, steering clear of tired clichés.
The menu is labelled by region. Courgettes are sautéed with oregano and mint, Lazio-style; their delicate flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies – more in the vibe of Campania.
A decadent risotto from Liguria is laced with cream of langoustine and topped with neon-red prawns; a waiter might plonk down a whole butterhead lettuce to share, zingy with a lemon dressing.
We kicked off with the fried stuff: crisp artichokes alla giudia; oozy courgette flowers; olives stuffed with minced veal and pork.
Mussels with chilli oil were let down by the miniscule size of the molluscs. Far better were springy charred tentacles of fresh squid, showered in lemon juice.
Pasta dishes on the menu included a spinach and ricotta ravioli with sage and butter or pappardelle with lamb sweetbreads, forest mushrooms and wild garlic.
We kept it simple with spaghetti pummarola – heavy, al dente pasta slathered in an intense tomato sauce and a dusting of pecorino.
The menu here is highly seasonal and changed up to twice a day, which keeps regular customers on their toes. Most dishes are available as small or large plates. You can get a decent plate of pasta for £6 or splash out £18 on a large dish of lamb braised in white wine.
You’ll need to pace yourself. The lavish pudding menu stars hard-to-find regional dishes such as Bonet from Piedmont, which is akin to a crème caramel with extra chocolate and rum.
Or keep it simple with a bowl of wild strawberries with lemon and sugar. (Which region? “Heaven” joked the menu.)
You can’t go home without popping into Gelupo, their ice cream parlour across the road. This does a roaring trade every evening, serving imaginative flavours concocted in the kitchen downstairs. Specials on our visit included apricot tart, saffron and vanilla or ricotta and sour cherry.
While I love Bocca di Lupo, it’s best for small groups – two or three of you up at the bar. The temptation is to over order, so follow the tapas approach: order a first wave of dishes, then top up if need be.
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer St, W1D
020 7734 2223