Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bocca Di Lupo, Soho (London)

Food should be joyful and therapeutic, celebratory and satisfying. Above all, food should be all about pleasure.

Clearly, anyone blogging under the Greedy Diva pseudonym subscribes to a healthy "live to eat" philosophy. I will never understand those contrary "eat to live"-ers, who would sooner pop a pill to deal with their daily calorie intake at minimum fuss than spend every spare moment day dreaming about what they might devour next. I put them in the same category as morning people. A complete enigma.

So for those who, like me, start mentally planning lunch while they are still swallowing that last piece of crumpet, Bocca Di Lupo is a fine place to celebrate food at its honest and satiating, pleasurable best.

Lucky for me, Bocca is my local Italian so The Peanut Gallery and I have sampled its fare since its first week of opening (it was brilliant from the start, and certainly easier to nab a seat). On Friday night, it was definitely time for a return visit, this time with my fellow hungry divas, Helen and Suzi. What better place to celebrate Helen's birthday and lift the pesky veil over Suzi's "what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas" recent travel tales.

Bocca serves up simple Italian regional food, perfectly done. If you haven't already guessed it, it's my kind of place. The menu itself is like a gastronomic guide book to the regions of Italy. And almost every dish is served in both small and large portion sizes, so you can hop between gazillions of courses, or tuck into one hearty bowl of pasta or a roast suckling pig. My fellow divas and I chose to cruise around the menu.

The crudita di mare from Veneto consisted of raw sea bream, langoustine and scallops with rosemary oil (pictured below). This was the best dish of the night. Forget all jokes about the raw prawn - each piece of seafood basked luxuriously on the taste buds, enhanced perfectly by the opulent greenish oil. Sometimes, sharing really is overrated.

The Ligurian grilled whole squid with gremolata (above) was lovely, as was the romanesco broccoli, served chilled with parsley and parmesan (pictured below). The whole, leafy grilled radicchio with a firm, grilled Asiago cheese of Veneto (above) was also a favourite.

Choosing a pasta was difficult, but we settled on the orecchiette with cime di rapa (a sauteed, leafy broccoli), garlic and chilli from Puglia (below). A challenger for first place, this was a gorgeous plate of perfectly firm ear shaped pasta pieces, packed with simple, scrumptious flavours.

The wet polenta with parmesan was milky with corn flavours, even if it did look a little like baby food (it is polenta afterall). We shared a crescentini (fried bread) with finocchiona (pork salami with fennel seeds), speck and tangy, creamy squacquerone cheese attibuted to Bologna.

As the Greedy Diva's head was causing a solar eclipse of the lighting, the Bocca photos do not do the food justice. Or perhaps it was just the 2nd carafe of wine at work - a smooth, light Ulysse Etna....

There are some intriguing desserts on the menu, like burnt almond granita with bitter chocolate sorbet (Sicilian) and sanguinaccio (sweet pate of pig's blood and chocolate with sourdough bread of Abruzzo). However, we had a date with with a Milanese bakery up the road.

Needless to say, this place does not have a bog standard London restaurant take on Italian food. For duos, I prefer the action of eating at the bar, but the tabled restaurant area is also lively and fun. Our meal cost around £32 per head, including wine and service - a reasonable price for such great food, sparkling company and the perfect atmosphere to gossip over tales of crazy nights in Vegas.

Bocca Di Lupo means "mouth of the wolf". And no matter how many times I visit, I'm still howling its praises.

Bocca Di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, Soho, London, W1
Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon

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