Everybody likes it when something seamlessly excellent becomes a part of their life. From that watertight rain jacket to the route that shaves ten minutes off the commute every day, once these things enter your life, they’re there to stay. This is how we feel about Bocca Di Lupo. It’s a seamlessly excellent Italian restaurant that, after our first visit, we couldn’t remember what we were doing before it.
Bocca is in Soho. It doesn’t have a concept, it isn’t ‘by’ a particular chef and it isn’t one of those places you think about wearing your ‘smart clothes’ to. Ultimately this is a very nice restaurant with very nice people that makes very nice food, and that’s why it’s seamless. Bocca Di Lupo opened in 2008, which was a while ago, yeah. But, actually, for a London restaurant to become an absolute classic in that amount of time is something special. And this is what special places do: they make you feel like they’ve always been there and will always be there.
Weirdly, there isn’t one particular reason why you have to go to Bocca Di Lupo. Like all classics, it’s an all rounder: from the food, to the staff, to the vibe in general. The food is lovely, homely, and a bit surprising in equal measure. You’ll go from a truffle salad to a wild boar ragu to a pork and foie gras sausage, and each will be great in their own way. The staff are professional but pally - whoever you go with will like the maitre d’s company more than your own by the time you leave. And then there’s the room, which has the appearance of formality but, really, is very relaxed. It’s a bit like a family wedding: a lovely environment that is seemingly a bit more ‘proper’ but actually, there’s a kid dropping pasta all over the table cloth and some middle aged men in the corner who have already drunk too much wine by 2pm. It’s special but it’s comfortable, and we really like that.
Don’t get us wrong, not everything is a hit here food-wise. But it doesn’t really matter. A lot of the menu is organised into small and large options, so you’re inclined to order a load of different things by going the small route. That way, if something isn’t for you then you’ve always got something else to be getting on with. For example, the rigatoni isn’t all that but we didn’t really give it much of a second thought, because that truffled radish salad is something else. Not many restaurants can get away with this.
Few places in London can hit the mark for almost any situation: a quick lunch at the bar, a two hour business sit down, a family occasion, a date with a keeper (especially if they chose) but Bocca Di Lupo does. After your second or third visit you might catch yourself wondering, what was before this? What did I do? The answer: nothing as enjoyable as this.
If we have to explain to you why ordering deep-fried mozzarella is a good idea, there’s a chance you might be lost.
If you don’t order and enjoy something described as ‘doused in olive oil’ are you even human?
Probably the most moreish salad we’ve ever eaten. This is something you definitely want a large portion of.
A bit of a Marmite dish. Pasta with baby calves intestines will put some people off. We thought it was okay, but quite overpowering.
Traditionally, orecchiette is known as ‘little ear’ thanks to its shape. Someone will probably be telling you this as you’re spooning it onto your plate and enjoying it before them. This is the right thing to do.
There are sausages and then there are sausages and then there are sausages that Henry VIII probably ate. These are the latter.
The toppings with polenta change every week. We’ve had radicchio, cuttlefish and a couple of others. They’re all good.
Again, this changes by the week but we think you should always get a risotto at a great Italian restaurant.