It’s good to have a few places like Bocca di Lupo up your sleeve, where you can escape to in an overcrowded neighborhood filled with tourists and tourist traps.
Although the restaurant has received various high-profile awards since it opened in 2008, Bocca di Lupo still feels like a hidden gem. Perhaps it’s more of a forgotten gem; five years is a long time in the restaurant industry and this buzzy spot is talked about less as dozens of new restaurants open every month in London. But novelty is overrated next to places which have continued to thrive over time, through many fickle trends.
Bocca di Lupo is a mere three minute walk from the madness of Piccadilly Circus, but tucked away on the unassuming Archer St, you really have to know where you’re going to find it.
However this is the kind of place that doesn’t need to worry about attracting passing traffic; it has a loyal fanbase of regulars who adore the restaurant’s stripped-down food “from all across Italy’s twenty regions” as the restaurant’s website says.
Chef Jacob Kennedy is an Italianophile Londoner who trained at another London dining favourite, Moro.
The restaurant is small with just a few tables, but I prefer popping in for a glass of wine and a few bites at the bar. Wherever you sit, you will want to clap your hands with joy as each plate is served.
Is this or is this not the best way to serve artichoke?! Stuffed with crab:
The dish looks beautifully simple but imagine the amount of work that goes into it. Artichoke and crab are two fine ingredients but also two of the most fiddly to prep; I’m more than happy to pay someone else to do the hard graft.
Every last thistly bit of the artichoke was painstakingly removed and the crab was picked carefully from its shell. A little bowl of top quality olive oil scented with lemon zest was served alongside for dipping the leaves.
Our lovely waitress almost cheered when she cleared the plate, saying that many people are too shy to scrape all of the artichoke flesh from the leaves with their teeth in public, even though the restaurant positively encourages this – such a waste!
These darling dumplings were so plump and fluffy, you could lay your head against them for a quick snooze. They’re called gnudi and were served with a lamb ragu.
Caponata is one of those magical dishes where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; a mix of slow-cooked, sweet vegetables is cut through with a sharp dressing of anchovy, vinegar and capers. I haven’t tasted a better one in London than Bocca’s.
A scoop or two from Gelupo, the restaurant’s gelato shop across the road is the perfect way to end a delightful Sunday supper.
It’s also the perfect accessory to pretend you’re a glamorous Italian languidly promenading past Piazza Navona, instead of a harried Londoner elbowing your way through the Piccadilly Circus throng back to the tube.