Sunday, July 29, 2012
WARNING: I'm going to post about food I have eaten and there aren't going to be photos. *Scandal* I was feeling guilty about this. I felt like a bad blogger because I didn't take any glossy, exciting photos of these special meals. Then I thought about this and I realised I was being ridiculous. Despite the constant barrage of perfect food (fashion, lifestyle, whatever) images on the Internet, a photographic representation of food is no closer to the actual experience of eating than a verbal representation. Maybe a verbal representation can ever be more accurate - the most beautiful picture of ice cream can't tell you whether it is coffee or hazelnut or caramel. That might just be my bias though.
Anyway, R and I recently went to Bocca di Lupo. I've been wanting to go for the last year but haven't had an opportunity where occasion and money coincided until now. It is quite expensive and certainly a special event kind of place (for me anyway). R's birthday was the occasion in question and I treated us to dinner as his main present. Btw, for a bit of context for non-Londoners, Bocca di Lupo calls itself London's premier regional Italian restaurant. 'For when you're hungry like the wolf.' It is the big brother restaurant to Gelupo, one of my most favourite London places. I am aware that I am coming across as a bit of a brand ambassador but I can't help it - Jacob Kennedy is doing good work.
Apart from pizza (hey Franco Manca) I very rarely choose Italian when eating out. I love Italian food and I cook it a lot at home but I resent paying over the odds for something I could have done better myself. It isn't a cuisine that is reliant on difficult cooking techniques and obscure ingredients - the best Italian food, for me, is simple, rustic peasant cooking. It is about home cooks rather than chefs and great quality, fresh ingredients. Living in London I have access to some of the best specialist food shops, delis and produce and being charged £10 in a bland, anonymous chain restaurant for a bowl of overcooked pasta with non-descript bottled sauce or a Caprese salad where the tomatoes are tasteless mush and the mozzarella is like chewing rubber and they skimp on the low quality olive oil and basil makes me mad. These kind of restaurants are so prevalent here that sometimes it is hard to remember that there is an alternative. But Bocca di Lupo is that alternative - it is very lovely and very Italian and very delicious.
The atmosphere is a lot of fun too. The restaurant is smart but the crowd is rowdy and there were lots of natives eating and drinking and gesticulating at 10.30. Everyone was talking very loudly and there was a drunken birthday party going on near us. It is no silent, reverent restaurant and I think that suits the food. After a large amount of really great bread, spicy green olive oil and olives, we started with some Roman bar snacks - fried mozzarella balls and suppli. I LOVE suppli and I've never seen them in England before so I was psyched about these. It's hard to describe them and/or do them justice but they're basically tomato risotto balls dotted with chunks of mozzarella, bread-crumbed and deep-fried. They're super good and in Rome you get them on brown paper with your drinks. The Bocca di Lupo ones came on brown paper too which made me happy. I am going to look into the possibility of just drinking at BdL and snacking on all their fritti Romani. That would be dreamy and affordable since the suppli are £2.50 each and you could eat 2-3 max...
R then had rabbit salad with tuna sauce and capers. It was too tuna-y for me but he assured me it was excellent and it did look very lovely. I had what was, according to the menu, a small plate of girolles risotto that easily could have been a main. I saw someone having the large size later and it was enormous, a vat of risotto! It was lovely but probably the weakest thing we ordered just because I easily could have made it at home given girolles. You know that you've had a great meal though when your weakest dish was still a pleasure to eat. In Italy I often skip the main course because of the high risk of being served a single large piece of meat that is 90% bone and gristle. It's great if you like that kind of thing but it's not really my cup of tea. I decided to put my trust in BdL though and they really delivered. The serving style was very Italian, just R's and my meat sitting on a white plate, you have to order your sides separately, but the cooking and flavouring was perfect. R had pork neck with honey and rosemary and grilled mini green peppers and I had scottadito, long, grilled, salty lamb chop, with tomato borlotti beans. The sides weren't all that excited but the meat was gorgeous. You can't eat scottadito with a knife and fork and I approve of a restaurant where you can eat with you fingers. We had fully intended to have Gelupo ice cream for pudding but we were so full by the end of our mains that it just wasn't an option. We might have slightly over ordered... We got a bit excited! I might have had to go home on the tube with my trousers unbuttoned - a sign of a good meal.
A week later we organised a joint birthday picnic. We did, if I say so myself, nail it food wise. We are masters of the picnic universe. There were warm, charred chipolatas wrapped in tinfoil and tea towels; Tamasin Day-Lewis' roasted tomato tart; bucks fizz; thermoses of tea; St John sourdough and Camembert; roasted vegetable couscous with goat's cheese and harissa dressing; Korean meatball pops sticky with spicy soy sesame glaze and dusted in sesame seeds and spring onions; Baked cookies and brownies. Friends bought cheeses and hummus and Biddenden cider and muffins. It was glorious. It didn't even rain.
I might have mentioned this before but food really is the best.