London for one, Part II: Bocca di Lupo
After my lovely solo lunch at the quiet Hereford Road, I felt confident and excited about my lunch reservation the next day, at Bocca di Lupo, an Italian restaurant in Soho.
I had a reservation at 14:30, which you can hardly call lunch, but it was the only slot available at the time of my booking. I´d spent the morning at Borough Market (more on that later) and I had sampled so many little things there, that even at 14:30 I wasn´t really hungry. Again, this influenced my choice of dishes - had I dined here at night, dishes like fried eel with polenta or pork & foie gras sausage with farro and porcini would undoubtedly have called my name - but as it was, I had to stick to salads and light dishes.
I arrived in a very crowded and busy restaurant, with people leaning against the wall sipping Prosecco while waiting to be seated. My barstool was waiting for me though, and I have to say that when dining alone, there is no better place to sit than the counter. I had a full view of the small kitchen, as well as of the bar, and even if I´d had nothing but wine and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch I´d still would have had a great time. It was so much fun watching the kitchen at work - the big burly guy manning the grill station, the quick little guy responsible for the pasta, the guy who I presumed was in charge yelling out orders and directions. Watching the interplay between waitstaff and chefs was also very entertaining.
Here´s what I ate:
shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino salad with truffle oil and pomegranates
Truffle oil can be so disappointing, but here it worked really well - the radishes were peppery, the celeriac sweet, the pomegranites tangy, the cheese pungent and salty, and the truffle oil melded it all together. A very nice and ´healthy´feeling little dish.
blood oranges with fennel and mullet bottarga
I have to confess I only chose this because I´d never tasted bottarga before and I was really curious about it. This was an excellent salad, and I loved the bottarga - grainy and salty and only slightly fishy. But, all in all, this was perhaps too similar to my other starter (everything was, perhaps, a bit too crunchy).
veal and pork agnolotti with meat sauce
A simple and comfortable dish, expertly done - agnolotti fluffy and light, with a sweet meaty filling, the sauce light and very flavorful.
burnt almond granita with bitter chocolate sorbet
The chocolate sorbet (dairy free) was divine, the almond granita was quite boring. I ate all the chocloate sorbet and even the bartender told me that the sorbet was ´the best part´ - I think they should just serve the chocolate sorbet, and everybody would be happy!
This is regional Italian food: the menu lists where every dish comes from - blood orange granita from Sicily, fried salt cod from Lazio - and I think that´s a wonderful way to become better aquainted with the variety of cooking styles that exists throughout Italy. I had a delightful lunch. And if I wasn´t really wowed by the food, I blame that more on the way I ordered, than on the restaurant. I´d love to go back for dinner and order some of the interesting fried dishes and meats that are on the menu!