Oklava – Turkish in Shoreditch EC2A

Great British menu dinner at Oklava 
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Psst! Come here + wibble the jelly, you know you want to…

 

K and I got sucked in to watching BBC’s Great British Menu (GBM) for the first time this year; already in its 12th series. We were supporting Selin Kiazim (“lovely hair”) Chef of Oklava, partly because we’re Londoners and partly because her chargrilled “modern Turkish” food looks so mouth-wateringly good. Oklava was first recommended to me well over a year ago and has been on the LardButty hitlist ever since. So when I saw this tweet announcing a special GBM Wimbledon dinner serving all four courses @ £60.00, it was time to act. Quickly. Booking made.

 

As seen on TV…
See the four courses with recipes on the BBC’s GBM website:
1. StarterQueue-cumber – Compressed cucumber + watermelon, spicy dukkah, pickled cucumber + shallots, borek
2. FishNadal Vs Federer – Barbecued octopus
3. MainGrand Slam Lamb – loads of smoky grilled BBQ lamb and spicy sausage
4. DessertHonouring Venus rosewater champions – all Turkish Delightish – a “Turkish panna cotta” (Muhallebi) with peach jelly, raspberries and rosewater sauce

 


As seen in Oklava…
But not for long. Nom nom.

Being located on a street corner with two walls of windows, it feels light and airy inside Oklava even though it’s a fairly small restaurant (about 50 covers). The kitchen is open-plan, with high stool seating at the counter so you can watch food being prepared and cooked in the stone oven or on the charcoal grill (mangal).

On arrival, we were seated at a regular table by an open window – ideal for a warm summer evening. And service was really good – nicely casual, professional, and chatty too.

First decision: we opted for the wine pairings with this special dinner, which meant we got to try three types of Turkish wine.

 

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Wimbledon dinner menu

 

Check out these photos, they pretty much do the talking themselves:Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Queue-cumber – flat bread, compressed cucumber, verjus dressing, cacik, crispy pancetta, served with Turkish fizz

 

K hates cucumber. He won’t eat it, he won’t go near it. He absolutely loved this dish – I think that says it all really.

The flavours of all the ingredients combined together was sensational. I dislike fresh coriander but ate and enjoyed it here, and the salty crispy pancetta finished it off royally. Yum.

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Nadal Vs Federer fish course – Grilled octopus with spiced potato rostis paired with a glass of Pasaeli Yapincak wine

 

Another treat to the tastebuds – the octopus didn’t quite live up to my expectations (I’d drooled watching the octopus being grilled on TV) but the rostis were crispy and just gorgeous. The Pasaeli Yapincak wine pairing was interesting too – a chilled white wine with a slightly musty taste when drunk on its own, but it sprang to life with this dish and went perfectly.

On to the highlight of this Wimbledon themed dinner: the Grand Slam Lamb main course, which really stood out. How it didn’t win the main course round on GBM is beyond my understanding.

Four types of lamb, all so different and all so, so special. The çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder had dense, rich, smoky flavours (so strong I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of it so… perfect in a meat selection) and the dutchee sausage with all its spices was something else. Unfortunately the onion purée didn’t like me (but we don’t need to talk about that here…).

Definitely worthy of a few photos:

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Grand Slam Lamb – three types of lamb (pictured) – lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée

 

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Who knew lamb could taste this good? Four types of lamb: çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder, lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée, served with Romaine lettuce salad, and freekeh salad with pomegranates

 

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch - lamb shoulder
Cemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder – çemen glaze ingredients include cumin, paprika, sweet pepper paste

 

This Romaine lettuce salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ and candied walnuts was divine, especially the feta dressing (a new and improved interpretation of a Caesar salad?)

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Romaine salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ + candied walnuts – Freekeh salad with pomegranates and glass of Arcadia Cabernet Franc red wine in background (worth keeping a note of + saved to my pinterest drinks board for future reference)

 

Next up: peach and rose bellini, with dessert – vanilla muhallebi (Turkish panna cotta) with peach jelly, raspberry and rosewater sauce, and a caramelised almond wafer.

Great British Menu dinner - Oklava Shoreditch
Hairy armed bellinis

 

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Honouring Venus Rosewater Champions

 

The verdict: Great service from both of our servers. Staff looked as though they were all enjoying themselves working here, and working together as a team, which was nice (that’s not something that comes across very often in restaurants and was noticeable because of it). The interior’s really pleasing (patterned shadows from lamp shades cast on walls, light and airy with open windows) and the food we had for this GBM dinner was an absolute treat.

Having enjoyed the lamb selection so much, I’m keen to return to try the Sunday Feast.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Turkish
– Address: 74 Luke St, London
– Postcode: EC2A 4PY
– Nearest stations: Old Street, Liverpool Street, or Shoreditch (overground)
– Website + menus: Oklava website
– Photos on flickr: Oklava food photos
– Location: Oklava map

Oklava Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chisou Mayfair – Japanese

Classy Japanese food without any pomp

The grand finale of our day out ‘west’ (taking in the Summer Exhibition 2017 and a few cocktails) was a meal at Chisou. The main reason for choosing this Mayfair restaurant was seeing the grilled unagi (eel) dish on their menu which I’ve only had once as a main course (rather than as a sushi/nigiri topping) in Japan a few months ago. I love eel done in the Japanese smoked style with a sticky sauce – it’s up there as one of my all-time favourite foods.

So I’ve really been looking forward to eating here – would it (could it) live up to my hopes?

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Small, appealing Japanese-style interior – main restaurant

Entering the main restaurant, it’s a small Japanese-style space with counter-seating and a few tables with Japanese wooden benches (the ones with lids so you can store your bags and coats inside, and keep the floor area tidy). But we were taken through to an even smaller backroom with closely arranged tables and no windows.

Befitting a hot, summer’s day we picked a chilled saké that goes really well with seafood, a Fisherman saké (more info here) @ £51.00 for a 720ml bottle. This went incredibly well with the food we ordered (mostly fish). Sipping from the small saké glasses, it seemed to last forever too.

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Wagyu steak skewers

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Crispy, fried gyoza

We ordered a few dishes to share, starting with edamame – young soy beans served with sea salt @ £4.50, wagyu kushi yaki – two wagyu steak skewers with teriyaki sauce @ £13.20 and gyoza – five crispy, fried chicken dumplings @ £7.90.

Next to arrive was the sashimi omakase selection – five kinds of chef’s choice ‘gohin sashimi’ @ £28.90. Totally divine and worth sharing two photos from different angles:

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Gohin sashimi – tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon and wasabi

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Gohin sashimi –  tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon

And then the much-anticipated grilled plates: saikyo yaki a ‘creamy’ black cod marinated in white miso paste @ £21.40 and unagi kabayaki – sea eel fillet in a sweet kaba yaki sauce @ £28.30.

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Grilled creamy black cod marinated in white miso paste

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Unagi kabayaki – smoked fillet of eel in a sticky sauce

Our waiter was charming – when I’d initially asked about the recommended amount of food for two to share (particularly sashimi portions) his advice was along the lines of ordering too much food is a shame but wanting more, we can easily fix. I liked that.

As an afterthought we ordered a portion of rice @ £3.40, to go with the grilled dishes. It arrived within moments.

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Nice bathroom

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Saké glasses and holders

For the sake of a thorough review (ahem) we ordered a bowl of ice-cream to share – the black sesame was particularly nice:

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Ice-cream – Madagascar vanilla, black sesame and green tea

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Partition between tables – fortunately, a cute little girl/toddler who “loved beans” (edamame soy beans) sat next to me; one even got flicked into my rice bowl which was amusing. But if you don’t like chatting to strangers over your dinner, this place may not be for you…

The verdict: Really high quality, excellent food and great menu options. The kind of ‘fine dining’ that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I’ll be back for the unagi (eel) and black cod again. Hopefully soon. And I’ll request a table in the main restaurant.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 4 Princes Street, London
– Postcode: W1B 2LE
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus
– Website + menus: Chisou Mayfair website
– Photos on flickr: images of Chisou Mayfair
– Location: Chisou Mayfair map

Chisou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Just Eat delivers

Pide delivery through Just Eat

We’re back ordering take-aways through Just Eat after a few weeks trying out Deliveroo (unsuccessfully).

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Peynir Pide – Feta cheese, hellim cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, fresh mint & fresh tomatoes

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Three pidesSucuk (beef pepperoni, chicken sausages, mushrooms + fresh tomatoes), Acili Sebze (mushrooms, red onions, peppers + green chillies) + Kusbasi (roasted lamb, spicy minced lamb, green chillies, crushed red chillies, red onions + peppers) and feta salad

Last night we ordered a delivery from old favourite, Pide the grandfather of pizza, through Just Eat. Easy to order, the Turkish pizzas and salad arrived promptly within the hour. The order was correct; pizza was fresh and hot, salad chilled, and all very tasty.

Check out LardButty’s review of Pide

 

Just Eat Vs Deliveroo

Just Eat
– easy to use website
– many restaurants to choose from
– reasonably priced
– fairly reliable in that food usually arrives within the hour and is usually hot (any issues are generally taken care of in time for your meal)
– a takeaway aggregator that lists menus for its users, Just Eat passes orders onto the restaurants for them to deliver the food to customers (Just Eat gets commission)

Deliveroo
– website has limited functionality (eg. you can’t ‘favourite’ your preferred restaurants) but does have really appealing food photography
– limited number of restaurants to choose from
– over-priced in that Deliveroo charges restaurant prices for ‘restaurant food’ but without the restaurant experience
– a delivery service that doesn’t take responsibility when there’s an issue with an order – the customer is left trapped somewhere in between the restaurant and Deliveroo’s (lack of) customer service
– food usually delivered by bicycle courier meaning food can be scrambled and cold
– the artful food photography on their website does not reflect what the food looks like in real life
– unreliable in that they use a pool of rider-couriers and can not always guarantee couriers in your area

Don’t do Deliveroo – unable to deliver

Sort it out Deliveroo

Save yourself time and money – don’t do Deliveroo.

Deliveroo tweet for blog

LardButty does not recommend Deliveroo.

 

More
DeliverooFails on twitter
Deliveroo rating on TrustPilot (poor)
Deliveroo asks for disgruntled customer’s forgiveness instead of refunding ‘stone cold’ pizza Independent article, Jan 2017

 

Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho W1 – sublime

Step out of the bustle of London’s Soho into the low-lit, pristine and calming ground floor restaurant Floor 58 in Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, for some truly tasty posh-nosh

Come on in…

Seated at a table for two (space was restricted) we started with a refreshing drink from the cocktail menu. A Banana Sazerac for me @ 11.00 (Monkey Shoulder scotch, Martell VS cognac, banana, pineapple, aromatic bitters, absinthe rinse and orange oils) and an Eldflower Sour for J @ £10.00 (Beefeater gin, elderflower, peach, lemon and marjoram).

We’d provisionally booked a set menu of two/three courses and a cocktail @ £29.50/£34.50. Take a look at the set menu side by side with the a la carte menu – the a la carte menu is too full of exciting options to resist, right?

 

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Jerusalem artichoke, Iberico de Bellota, Arlington white egg, Langres, dandelion + Spring truffle

 

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Mackerel and tartare, Skyr, pickled walnuts, apple + chicory

 

And so we ordered from the a la carte menu. For starter, I had salt-baked Jerusalem artichoke, Iberico de Bellota, Arlington white egg, Langres cheese, dandelion, and Spring truffle @ £13.50. I don’t think I’ve eaten dandelion before and it looked stunning. So visually pleasing it was almost a shame to tuck in and spoil the design. Almost. The mixture of flavours was sensational – the word sublime was going through my mind right throughout this meal.

J had scorched south coast mackerel and tartare, Skyr (yoghurt-like dairy product), pickled walnuts, apple and chicory @ £12.00.

 

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Set menu Vs a la carte menu – click to enlarge

 

For main course, J had baked Cornish hake, hispi cabbage gratin, Salcombe crab, Tokyo turnip and saffron @ £28.00, along with a mug of cidre Breton @ £6.00.

 

I had coriander seed roasted turbot, green sauce, white Wye Valley asparagus, fennel salad and crispy Pyefleet oyster @ £32.00, and drank a Vinha dos Santos 2013 red wine from Portugal’s Douro region @ £9.50 a 175ml glass. Here’s a photo of the turbot (as served) – beautiful. The photo below shows the food disassembled so you can see inside the crispy (breaded) oyster, and the detail of the meaty turbot with asparagus and fennel salad.

 

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Hake, hispi cabbage gratin, Salcombe crab, Tokyo turnip, saffron

 

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Roasted turbot, green sauce, white Wye Valley asparagus, fennel salad + crispy Pyefleet oyster

 

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Americano @ £4.00, Financier (almond cake) + petit fours @ £3.50

 

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Social Eating House on Soho’s Poland Street – Floor 58 on ground floor, Blind Pig on first floor

 

The verdict: Food here is on another level. It’s sublime, sensational and blew me away. I can’t wait to eat here again. Service was good too.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: British, ‘contemporary bistro’
– Address: 58 Poland St, Soho, London
– Postcode: W1F 7NS
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly
– Website + menus: Social Eating House website
– Photos on flickr: of Social Eating House
– Location: Social Eating House map

The Social Eating House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roka Mayfair – Japanese fine dining W1

Robata at Roka – fine dining for treat times

For a special occasion this evening, K and I headed to Roka for some seriously special Japanese robata (charcoal grilled) food. We chose this branch for its menu (see Roka Mayfair menu) which includes black cod, a favourite of mine.

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Tuna tataki, beef gyoza, tenderstem broccoli + chicken skewers

We ordered a bottle of dry white wine by La Croix Belle wine estate @ £34.00 – appropriate for a mild Spring evening, and spicy dishes and fish.

While the premium tasting menu looked quite appealing (10 set dishes @ £88.00 each) it seemed like a lazy option. We preferred the enjoyment of reading all of the menu and ordering exactly what we wanted.

As food was arriving at the neighbouring table, it was quite a challenge not to simply copy what they had – it smelt amazing. We took their recommendation for the fried aubergine salad, and were glad we did.

For starters, we shared these plates:

Age nasu no goma-ae @ £6.60
fried aubergine, sesame miso and katsuobushi

Yakitori-negima yaki @ £5.90
chicken skewers with spring onion

– Broccoli no shinme, shoga to moromi miso @ £5.60
tenderstem broccoli, ginger and moromi miso

Beef gyoza @ £9.30
with pickled cucumber and a soy based sauce

Nigiri unagi @ £6.90
two pieces of freshwater eel sushi

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Fried aubergine salad with sesame miso + katsuobushi (tuna flakes) –  @ £6.60

This fried aubergine with sesame miso was a recommendation worth sharing. Absolutely gorgeous. And the eel nigiri (pictured below) was the best I’ve had in the UK – we ordered two portions.

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Two pieces of nigiri unagi – freshwater eel sushi @ £6.90

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Yellowfin tuna tataki – with apple mustard dressing @ £12.60

For main course, we shared:

Kihada maguro no tataki @ £12.60
yellowfin tuna tataki with apple mustard dressing

Gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku @ £24.30
spicy beef fillet with chilli, ginger and spring onion

and, saving the best ’til last…

Gindara no saikyo-jaki @ £37.60
black cod marinated in yuzu miso

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Spicy beef fillet – with chilli, ginger and spring onion @ £24.30

Just divine. This black cod may seem a bit pricey @ £37.60 but it absolutely blew me away. And you can’t put a price on that.

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Black cod marinated in yuzu miso @ £37.60

The kitchen is open plan in the centre of the restaurant, so you can see the food being cooked on the robata grills. It’s a bit like posh BBQ-ing really.

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Men at work: robata grills in the centre of the restaurant

 

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Roka Mayfair interior

Our total bill for two came to £185.21 including service.

 

The verdict: Perfectly prepared and beautifully presented food that’s so incredibly tasty, it blew me away. Full marks to the kitchen. Service was at odds (either too much – we went from different servers descending on us one after the other, to non-existent). If you like Japanese food, you’ll love Roka.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese, Robata
– Address: 30 North Audley Street, London
– Postcode: W1K 6ZF
– Nearest station: Bond Street, Green Park
– Website + menus: Roka Mayfair website
– Roka Mayfair photos: Roka Mayfair photos on flickr
– Location: Roka Mayfair map

Roka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bocca di Lupo – classy Italian in Soho W1

From cheesy balls to Grandpa’s balls, Bocca di Lupo specialises in obscure, regional Italian cuisine and the menu changes twice a day. 

The first tip is to book well in advance. For our reservation for two this Friday evening, the only availability (having booked a couple of weeks beforehand) was at 7.15pm, perched on high stools at the counter.

On arrival, I was disappointed to see how little space there is for those dining at the bar overlooking the open-plan kitchen, with high stools close together.

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Sea bream carpaccio starter @ £9.00

J had an amaretto sour cocktail @ £10 and I had a glass of Malvasia Nera ‘falo’ San Marzano @ £6.60 (see the red wine list here) while reading the enticing menu. Some dishes needed an explanation from our waiter, whose descriptions made them all the more exciting. It’s not a traditional Italian menu by any means – there’s definitely no pizza but there are plenty of appealing seafood options (if you like seafood). And the Italian region is given for each dish, to show where it’s a speciality.

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Deep fried mozzarella bocconcino balls

We chose six small plates to share, tapas or cicchetti style:

Sea bream carpaccio with orange + rosemary @ £9.00
Buffalo mozzarella bocconcini deep fried in bread crumbs @ £2.50 each (tip: get two each!)
Ricotta ravioli with wild garlic, served with butter + hazelnuts @ £8.00
Octopus, roast tomato, celery + basil salad @ £9.00
Caponata – aubergines, celery + tomato in agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce) @ £7.00
Orechiette di gran arso (burnt grain pasta) with cime di rapa (a variety of sprouting broccoli) + pecorino (hard sheep’s cheese) @ £7.50

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Ricotta + wild garlic ravioli 

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Octopus, roast tomato, celery + basil salad

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Caponata – aubergine, celery, tomato in agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce)

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Orechiette di gran arso with cime di rapa + pecorino 

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Tonight’s menu – 24 March 2017

All of these dishes were stunning, and I’d happily have all of them again next time. Being seated at the end of the bar next to the serving station, it was a busy thoroughfare. But on the plus side, it was easy to get service and great for eyeing up other dishes to try in the future (the roast wild turbot with lentils and salsa verde @ £24.00 served whole, got my attention).

From the dessert menu, we shared a bonet – chocolate, coffee, amaretti, caramel + rum pudding @ £7.00 (I’m not a huge chocolate fan and I don’t like coffee flavouring in food but this was gorgeous – you could really taste the amaretti almond bits in it; it’s perfect for sharing and not as sickly as it looks) and le palle del nonno or Grandpa’s balls – ricotta with chocolate, deep-fried in a light batter and sprinkled with icing sugar @ £7.00 (so good; take a closer look inside here).

We both had a 70 ml glass of Moscato d’asti Adriano sparkling dessert wine @ £3.50 – sweeter than I normally like, but it went really well with these desserts. So well in fact, I had another when J had a coffee…

Check out the dessert wine and grappa menu.

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l: Le palle del nonno ‘grandpa’s balls’ – deep-fried ricotta
r: Bonet
– chocolate, coffee, amaretti, caramel + rum pudding

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Moscato d’asti Adriano sparkling dessert wine – cosy, perched on the counter by the serving station

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Bar seats at the counter – it’s a small space if you’re sharing a few plates

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Open plan kitchen

The verdict: The quality of the food and drinks compensated for the discomfort of the tiny bar space. While this place isn’t cheap (our bill for two was £126.90 including service) you do get what you pay for – it’s more of a place to go for a treat than every day dining (you need to book well in advance anyway).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Italian
– Address: 12 Archer Street, Soho, London
– Postcode: W1D 7BB
– Nearest station: Piccadilly
– Website + menus: Bocca di Lupo website
– Bocca di Lupo photos: pics of Bocca di Lupo on flickr
– Location: Bocca di Lupo map

Bocca Di Lupo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato