Near Piccadilly Circus, a versatile and attractive Italian restaurant that’s one of the best openings of the year to-date; its ex-Moro team serves up unusual and accomplished Italian dishes, and the wine list is notable too.
Some restaurants – like Buddha Bar, or Bob Bob Ricard – burst onto the London stage after months of warm-up PR. It’s always a struggle for the reality to match the build-up. Other restaurants – like Bocca di Lupo – sort of creep out when you’re not looking. Unanticipated, their arrival seems all the more interesting.
Interesting, the location of this Soho newcomer is not. Despite being only a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, it’s in a street so boring it looks like an alleyway that’s grown too big for its boots. In such an unpromising setting, its smart exterior seems all the more chic.
The interior is also promising. A long, Carrara marble bar flanks the room providing separation from a shiny and bustling open kitchen. At the back, there’s a more formal dining section, dominated by a huge, vaguely retro, circular light fitting. It’s where we sat, but it’s probably the part of the room which ‘works’ least well.
At lunch, they do an appealing short menu of ‘one-dish meals’ for £7-£11. Grandly, though, we went for the Ã la carte, which features dishes from across Italy labelled by region. Sampling is made easy by the fact that all plates come in a choice of small and large sizes. There is also a long, well-priced and intelligently constructed wine list.
Whoosh! The fireworks started to go off when our initial, quite brilliant dishes arrived. The first was a bone marrow, barolo and radiccio risotto. Boy was it good: meaty yet light; rich but fresh-tasting. The second was a pork and foie gras saugage with a buckwheat accompaniment. The sausage had a magnificently rustic, farmyardy quality, quite out of place in a trendy Soho gaff.
Best of the rest was the Fritto Romano, combining deftly fried artichoke and excellent veal sweetbreads. Least good, oddly, was the pasta – tortelli of ricota with burnt (by design!) walnut pesto – where the individual components of the dish resolutely refused to add anything to one another.
How could you refuse a pudding of pig’s blood and chocolate paté? It may sound vile, but the reality was just an offbeat chocolate pot that was – all things considered – hard to separate from every other gooey chocolatey pudding you’ve ever had before. It was, though, served with more of their bread, which we’ve neglected to mention is terrific. Coffee to follow was a bit dull, but enlivened by little chocolate beans from a famous Roman café.
The team in the Kitchen – Jacob Kenedy and David Cook – were until recently at that perennial favourite, Moro. Their pedigree really shines through in this new venture which is one of the more significant debuts of the year-to-date.