Bocca di Lupo lurks in an unpromising side street in the seedy end of Soho. The room itself is light, with a long marble bar behind which is an open kitchen, and a dining room beyond. The atmosphere is casual, with tiled floors, no tablecloths and an eclectic set of paintings adorning the cream walls. The “into the wolf’s mouth” name is, I believe, roughly equivalent to “break a leg”, but any Italian readers feel free to correct me.
The menu criss-crosses Italian regions, with most dishes available either in starter or main course sizes. The mostly but not exclusively Italian wine list has plenty of choices under £30, and mark ups are fair. Examples are Napa valley Cuviason Pinot Noir 2006 at £37.50 for a wine that will set you back around £20 in the shops, Cometa Planeta 2007 at £40.75 for a wine that costs about £18 retail, and at the higher end Brunello Rennina Col d’Orica 1990 at £107.50 for a wine that costs around £60 in the shops.
A starter of a pair of scallops with gremolata (lemon zest, parsley, garlic) was pleasant, the scallops cooked reasonably well and having retained their natural hint of sweetness, the herbs working well enough. It is partly a personal thing, but I don’t think that serving the scallop corals attached is a great idea; on my side of this argument are Pierre Troisgros and Nico Ladenis, though no doubt this is a matter of taste. All in all, perfectly nice (13/20). Other starters sampled include a good salad of radish, celeriac and Pecorino with pomegranates and truffle oil, and fried eel and red prawns with white polenta with tasty prawns but surprisingly tasteless eel.
For my main course poussin was well made, served with toasted pieces of bread and a raison and pine nut salad (14/20). Cream of red prawn risotto with basil was made with good stock, but why leave the shells on the prawns? Spaghettina with lobster, mussels and ginger had good pasta but no implements were offered to extract the lobster meat from its shell.
A rum baba dessert with pineapple was insufficiently moist (12/20), while the adventurous sweet paté of pig’s blood and chocolate with sourdough was inoffensive. Service was friendly, and the staff managed to cope well through a fault in the air conditioning that resulted in the “heating” actually behaving as if it was a balmy summer’s day rather than the bitterly cold January evening that it was. One couple was reduced to sitting in their coats at their table and, in retrospect, they were the brightest people in the restaurant and I wished I had followed ther example.
Overall I found this an enjoyable meal, with quite good ingredients, though for me the kitchen is trying a bit too hard to show off rather than sticking to the basics.Book