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Nov 22, 2008 02:59 PM

Bocca di Lupo, Soho, London

The big green olives are a lush balance of acidity and oil.

The texture of the tortelli is just right, the thin snap of fresh pasta, then the clean softness of ricotta. The tortelli aren't seasoned very much, but the salty, nutty, aromatic burnt walnut pesto takes over, giving off a tiny glimmer of spice and the faintest shade of sweetness. It's quite an accomplishment.

Risotto with barolo is a Piedmontese classic and is duly acknowledged here. (The menu lists regions to match the dishes.) I loved the flavour ingrained in the rice, a meaty depth beautifully integrated with the fruit and earth of the wine, just a ghost of the alcohol haunting the dish. There are the smoky soft marrow bits, brunoise of nutty cheese (parmigiano or pecorino I'm not sure) and bitter radicchio to cut that richness and to contrast its sharp crisp self against the soft risotto. Texturewise, a touch more starchiness would not have hurt, the rice grains are tender but hold on to a faint chalkiness in the centre. Not as al dente as my absolute favourites, but certainly made with a good amount of care.

I loved the unassuming chestnut and porcini soup, the wintry sweetness enveloping the earthy flavours of the mushroom. The soup is hearty and smooth, lubricated with a good amount of olive oil. Diced chestnuts and mushrooms provide two different kinds of softness.

A well crafted composition in a salad, a brilliant interplay of crisp clean radish, nutty pecorino, earthy celeriac, all sliced thinnly to the same dimensions, tossed with truffle oil and brightened by pomegranate seeds.

Frito Romano (fried artichoke and sweetbreads) was a tad disappointing. Although the oil tasted fairly fresh, the dark brown batter suggested a touch over frying. Fried artichoke was still creamy on the inside, but the sweetbread nuggets seemed tight and broke into smaller granules on the tongue, rather than retain a mildly chewy, bouncy richness.

A good plump pork sausage, the smoky aroma of little bits of foie gras evident without even a bite, a well tuned balance of liver and pork, with a finish that hints of fennel. A nice bed of farro and porcini.

A baba au rhum was pleasant, sliced in half and filled with good cream in the centre, contrasting with slices of pineapple. Soaked in a syrupy sauce with a little alcoholic kick to it, the baba was obviously moist, but the texture still seemed a little harsh, rather than being completely soft and wispy. But a minor flaw at most.

The warm nearly crispy brioche was a great foil to three scoops of gelati: a very nutty pistachio, toasted hazelnut and chestnut. I loved the sweetness of the chestnut but felt that its flavour and that of the hazelnut could be intensified. Texture was great, ever so slightly chewy and sticky and rich.

Sanguinaccio was an unexpected pleasure, probably my favourite dessert of the lot. A rich pudding with chocolate and a very traditional addition of pig's blood, to give a gorgeous shade of liver. First, an earthy bitter-sweet chocolate, a luxuriant flood, and then behind that, the subtle metallic richness of blood, rapidly cut and balanced by the intense glow of citrus from candied orange and lime(?) peel. A crunchy finish from pine nuts. The combination is perfect spread on soft slices of puffy sourdough.

I'll never get used to Italian pinot nero, and the one they served seemed just like its brethern, too big and fruity for me, although the acidity was very food friendly. The more earth-toned chianti was more to my taste, rich and almost raisiny, spicy in many different ways.

An excellent experience overall and definitely worth a visit.

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  1. Thanks for this report - it sounds wonderful!

    Do you think they would welcome solo diners? I have some time to kill before a gig this week and can't think of a better place to eat while I wait.

    7 Replies
    1. re: DollyDagger

      I see no reason why they would not welcome solo diners (I've eaten as a solo diner in many other restaurants and have never felt unwelcome). There's also a nice bar in the front of the restaurant if you don't want to eat at a table. At the bar, I would probably sit out of the range of the cold air from the door, and more importantly, to be in front of the open kitchen where you could watch them cook.

      1. re: limster

        My wife has been out of action for quite a few months on the restaurant front due to babies and i want to take her to a cracking italian on sat night . Shes been to Zafferano lots of times so i booked us a table at Locanda Locatelli but from what i can gather Bocca di lupa is more the italian of the moment . Id like to know your thoughts and whether bocca di lupa is upto the standard or better than River cafe , Zafferano or Locanda locatelli . I dont expect the restaurant to look as upscale as its significantly cheaper but is the quality of the food as good ?

        1. re: millema

          Haven't been to River Cafe, Zafferano or Locanda Locatelli, I don't know enough to make a comparison. The food at Occa di Lupo is on the rustic side, and plays on big flavours, certainly isn't as refined as L'Anima, if that's a helpful comparison.

          Also, it's been a while since I've eaten there, would love to know how BdL is cooking spring ingredients.

          1. re: millema

            apples and oranges.

            no, its not in that class.

            1. re: batfink23

              Fair enough Batfink !
              I think i fell for limsters excellent descriptive review but im going to stick with Locanda .

              1. re: millema

                I think the River Cafe and Theo Randall are better than Locanda - but that's starting to split hairs a little bit.

                and as Georgio made his name at Zafferano there is a nice symmetry to it all.

                1. re: batfink23

                  we did thorougly enjoy a meal at theo randall but my goodness do you know that youre eating in a hotel dining room , so dull and the food wasnt quite in the upper echelons to compensate . I appreciate in theory locanda is in a hotel too , but in practice it feels far removed (till you need the bathroom).
                  Id love to get across to the river cafe but a) we want to go on to a bar/club afterwards , hence better to be close to west end and b) i want to have a drink and hence me driving all the way to hammersmith is a no no . Yes i could taxi it all over but im a northerner , it would burn my inner sole to be so ostentatious !