Bocca di Lupo (September 2013)

That it is almost impossible to get a table at Booca di Lupo almost five years after it first opened is the truest testament to its success. I had not been here in around two years, but it has remained largely unchanged, still a great atmosphere, superb attitude from the staff, outstanding regional Italian food – and having to make do with a seat at the bar. This latter point is no bad thing: diners get to witness all the action as it happens, with the chefs preparing the food in front of you, a form of culinary theatre. We were greeted with a smile, as if we were regulars, and then shown to our bar stools. Dining here is not about formality and Bocca is about as far from foam, jus and reduction as you can find in central destination-restaurant London. In essence, the restaurant prepares what could almost be considered extravagant Italian ‘peasant food’ with a strong regional/ local emphasis, yet what it does, it executes superbly. In the food category, think, for example, juicy wild boar sausages, smoky and as if straight from the muddy autumnal forest; alternatively, the pig’s liver was among the most tender I have ever enjoyed, floating in its own juices and flavoured exquisitely with bay. We were left in no doubt that the produce was all either home-made or locally-sourced and not one of the five dishes we shared (the majority are offered either as small or large options, allowing diners hence to mix and match) could be faulted. The Roman tripe stew with chilli and tomato was another stand-out choice and not an option one might see on too many London menus; but, then returning to the more established ground of tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, garlic and parsley from Trentio demonstrated how good something basic can taste if the ingredients are well-sourced and the dish is properly prepared, with attention to detail. In every case, presentation was also first-class. An interesting wine list, again with regional emphasis and an avoidance of the more obvious Chiantis and Barolos was a perfect complement to the cuisine. With many available in carafes, one can enjoy a reasonable glass at a reasonable price, ideal for a lunchtime. Go, and enjoy.