39 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DD, United Kingdom

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This pasta restaurant, whose name means “counter”, opened in late June 2018 just off Trafalgar Square. It has since gained a 90-seat sister restaurant Bancone, located near Golden Square, that opened in late 2019. The restaurants were set up by Will Elner, who had formerly run his family’s restaurant, Joanna’s in Crystal Palace since 2003. The head chef here is Louis Korovilas, who previously cooked at Pied a Terre and for five years at Locanda Locatelli. The menu has just a few starters (from £3 - £9.50) and then a selection of pasta dishes (mostly £9 to £13). The dining room is long and narrow, with plenty of counter seating, some tables with high chairs and a few booths with normal seating. The tables in the booths were what an estate agent might call snug, but the seats were comfortable enough. If you don’t snag one of the booths though, you will be on a bar stool, which presumably is to discourage customers from lingering.

The essentially all Italian wine list had 45 labels and ranged in price from £21 to £160, with a median price of £47 and an average markup of 3.1 times retail, which these days is fairly normal for central London. Sample references were Le Coste Trebbiano Poderi Dal Nespol 2018 at £27 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £7, Dolcetto d‘Alba Paolo Conterno 2017 at £39 compared to its retail price of £16, and Barolo Riva Leone 2014 at £59 for a wine that will set you back £24 in the high street. For those with the means there was Ginestra Barolo Riserva Paolo Conterno 2010 at a bargain £110 compared to its retail price of £134, and the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2015 at £160 for a wine whose current market value is £110. Alternatively, corkage was £15 a bottle.

Burrata with radicchio tardive from Treviso and diced squash was pleasant enough, though there was limited intervention from the kitchen in this dish (12/20). I tried the ambitiously named “silk handkerchiefs”, a pasta dish with ribbons of pasta, walnut butter and a slow cooked egg yolk. The pasta was fine but the dish was under-seasoned, just bland except for the touch of walnut (12/20). At least the pasta  didn’t taste like a handkerchief.

Better was ragu of white veal (a marketing term for young veal under five months in age) with campanelle (bell shaped) pasta and shavings of winter truffle. The pasta had good texture, the ragu could have been more deeply flavoured though it was pleasant enough. The winter truffle did provide a gentle scent, which is not always the case with this type of truffle, which is much cheaper than true black truffle or white truffle and too often lacks any aroma at all (easily 13/20). Less impressive was cavolo nero mafalde (ribbon shaped pasta) with Taleggio cheese and toasted buckwheat.  The cavalo nero (Tuscan kale) was certainly pleasant, and the pasta itself had decent texture, though there was not much cheese flavour. Again, the seasoning was rather tentative (12/20).

We shared a hazelnut chocolate crème brûlée for dessert. This was actually the best thing that we ate, the topping nicely crisp and the texture of the brûlée was smooth, with plenty of flavour coming through (14/20). Service was very efficient, our waiter being a friendly and capable Romanian gentleman called Valentino. The bill came to £46 a head with corkage. If you ordered three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine, plus water and coffee, then a typical cost per person might come to around £55 with service. The place was packed out on a Tuesday night in January, with tables and bar stools being turned repeatedly around us. Clearly Bancome has found a popular niche. It is relatively inexpensive and serves decent if hardly exciting pasta dishes. You won’t find any expensive ingredients on the menu here, but then that is not the aim. It is prospering in a relatively tough current restaurant climate.

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