Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street Soho London W1D 7BB
There's something deeply clever about Bocca di Lupo: it's a newish Italian restaurant that somehow manages to give the impression that it's been here forever; it also has a feel that is both homely and traditional but the contemporary sharpness that makes you feel you're somewhere special. And in the 5 years it's been going it's both established a reputation as a reliable and almost venerable place to eat, yet remains cutting-edge and different enough from just about any other Italian in the capital. The food is almost annoyingly good, with a big and ambitious menu drawn (like the wine list) from all the Italian regions and focused on authenticity and rusticity – it's tasty rather than refined. They do lots of deep-fried Roman delights – lovely light and crispy suppli, artichoke alla giudea, delicate sage leaves with anchovies – along with bitter puntarelle with a creamy anchovy sauce, pasta dishes with rich gamey sauces and a northern bollito misto. There's also lovely cotechino sausage with herby lentils, suckling pig with crackling and – in another nod to the north – creamy polenta served with sweet tiny shrimp along with a delicious Sicilian caponata. It's a voyage around Italy, and you may be tempted to try a bit of everything, in which case it's fine to share, and to be honest there's no better place for a no-holds-barred lunch. But you could equally come in and have a main course pasta dish and be happy. Like the paintings on the wall (the work of the owner's mother), it's both a contemporary and a classic place, as comfy or as posh as you want it to be – perhaps something more restaurants should strive to be. Highly recommended.