Harden's survey result
An “interesting Italian–vegetarian concept” in Bloomsbury and Smithfield – fans extol its “delicious, and ethically-minded” fare, but to critics “it’s a great idea, but the realisation is pretty average”.
Amico Bio EC1
By Bart's Hospital, a handy little wine bar/bistro, where the food happens to be both Italian and vegetarian - on our early-days visit, it was of consistently good quality.
So here we are in a pretty backwater on the fringe of the City, in premises which look rather like a traditional wine bar-cum-bistro (which is precisely what it was until very recently, under the name of Betjeman's). The crowd is suitably blokeish. (Topics on the next table: how to keep fit, and how the iPad will revolutionise the world.) The menu? Italian, so nothing very radical.
But what's rather odd? Oh yes, someone forgot to place the order with the butcher: the menu is all organic ('bio') and all vegetarian (and largely vegan too).
Are we bovvered? No, not really. Our test meal was a modest and rather conventional platter - consisting of focaccia, risotto, soup, char-grilled veg and so on - plus an extra dish of zucchini fritti, a rum baba and an espresso. Everything was of sufficiently high quality that the absence of meat just wasn't an issue.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Signor Amico has long worked with Giorgio Locatelli, one of the most food-focussed of the chefs tarred with the celebrity brush.
The most determined of carnivores will, of course, have none of this, but we suspect most other people would be likely to find lunch here very satisfactory all round. If you're in a rush, though, our experience suggests this might be a good place to avoid.
43-44 Cloth Fair, London, EC1A 7JQ
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Last orders: 10.30 pm