The Chef’s Table: Bocca di Lupo, London
Sitting at the Chef’s Table in Bocca di Lupo, I can’t help but smile at the sequence of events that led us to the prestigious restaurant in London’s Soho district. Just two weeks prior to our departure on a trip to Dubai and Europe, Mr G discovered the Italian restaurant after reading rave reviews. A quick peruse of their website ignited our interest. We simply had to make a booking.
Within a day or so, I came across a comprehensive review on Helen’s World Foodie Guide blog and when I left her a comment, she kindly recommended that we ask to be seated at the Chef’s Table. The opportunity to observe a commercial kitchen in action has been on my wish list for years.
Bocca di Lupo takes online reservations but we were most disappointed that they were booked out on the nights we were to be in London. I emailed them explaining that we were coming from Australia and as avid foodies, expressed our desire dine there during our visit to London. By the time we left Sydney and holidayed in Dubai, I had no reply. Then on our arrival to London, I received an email from the Reservations Manager confirming our request and I could barely contain my excitement.
Outside Bocca di Lupo
Spotting the two empty stools in the corner as we are about to enter the restaurant, my heart sinks. From that spot, it would be difficult to see the chefs in action.
The Bar, From the Chef’s Table
But once we are inside, we are shown to our seats away from the bar section and right in the centre of the kitchen action.
The ambience on this Thursday evening is one of casual elegance. The shiny marble bar is lined with attractive people. Many diners appear to be couples on a date, marking it as the place to take someone you want to impress.
The marble top bar
We order cocktails to start the evening. My Watermelon and Basil Martini (left) is made with crushed watermelon, vodka and infused with basil is an excellent starter. I can taste the Vodka first, followed by the juiciness of the watermelon with a little kick from the basil in the end notes. Mr G orders the Monk (right), made with Vodka, Frangelico and Espresso, a powerful combination of ingredients better enjoyed as a post-dinner cocktail.
We are presented with an assortment of breads, tiny black olives and a fruity olive oil while we study the menu. Head Chef Jacob Kenedy with second chef David Cook serve dishes that are quintessentially Italian. They all come in two sizes, small and large, each being a speciality of a region in Italy. We are spoiled for choice and we order a few dishes to start.
Lamb Prosciutto with Pecorino Fiore Sardo
The Lamb Prosciutto Pecorino Fiore Sardo arrives first, three pieces of cured meat with wedges of Pecorino cheese served on a wooden board. The lamb has a lovely spicy and a little smoky flavour which complements the sharpness of the Pecorino. The marbled meat just melts in the mouth.
Terre di Franciacorta bianco Fratelli Berlucchi Chardonnay/Pinot Bianco, 2008
We choose a bottle white wine to accompany our dishes, Terre di Franciacorta Bianco 2008, Fratelli Berlucchi Chardonnay/Pinot Bianco from Lombardia and watch the fours chefs in action. Wines are available by the glass or by the bottle.
Soft shell crab with white polenta and orange
The soft shell crab with white polenta and orange has an intriguing presentation. The crab is fried and accompanied by crispy potatoes and white polenta, the latter being a preferred complement to seafood. I am a little hesitant on the zestiness from the orange but it only imparts a mild flavour to the sweetness of the crab.
Black risotto of cuttlefish and its ink
Every so often, one mouthful of a dish takes you to culinary heaven. The black risotto of cuttlefish and its ink (Veneto) is the one for me. The flavours are robust, the rice cooked to perfection and the taste lingers to the point I start to hope the next dish is delayed just a little.
Watching the chefs work in the kitchen defines what the corporate term of teamwork should be, fluid, supportive and lacking in egos. The head chef is coordinating three others, while he cooks, plates up and keeps a watchful eye on every detail.
The chefs moved so fast, all I ever photographed was their backs.
Grilled girolles with parsley and chilli
Sitting in this prime location serves a dual purpose. While the menu may not tempt you, the sight of completed dishes coming out of the kitchen makes you order it.
The aroma emanating form the kitchen when the Grilled Girolles with Parsley and Chilli (Lombardia) are cooked is enough to tempt us. The flavour from the mushrooms is earthy and complex. I could eat this dish as a main, served with a fine polenta.
Cannellini beans all’uccelletto
The taste of Cannellini Beans all’uccelletto remind me of my first time in Florence. All’uccelletto refers to the way they are cooked using garlic and fresh sage, which is the traditional way to prepare arrosto di uccelletti, or roasted birds.
Spaghettini with lobster, mussels and ginger
We end on a main course of spaghettini with lobster, mussels and ginger. The seafood flavours are so fresh and not masked by the tomato sauce, a generous serving of the lobster and mussels, with the ginger imparting a welcome kick.
This generous sized Bistecca is a popular choice, to be shared by two people.
Oh to have such a spotless kitchen!
The Dining Room (left) and Chef’s Table (right)
Brioche ’sandwich’ of hazelnut, pistachio and chestnut gelati
For dessert, we share the Brioche ’sandwich’ of hazelnut, pistachio and chestnut gelati (Napoli). Looking more like an elaborate burger, three ice cream flavours are served between slices of a sweet brioche. I cannot decide which gelato I like the most but after several spoonfuls, I vote on the chestnut.
We end what is an excellent meal with Grappa di Barolo Marolo Vintage 1996, aged 12 years in Barrique. Before we leave, we express our gratitude to the chef with special thanks to the person who managed to fit us in and seat us in a prime location.
Bocca di Lupo remains one of the most fabulous dining memories of our last trip, and a restaurant that we would return to on our subsequent visits to London.
In the meantime, I am on a quest to replicate the Chef’s cuttlefish ink risotto.
Bocca Di Lupo
12 Archer Street
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