I once read somewhere that really crappy Italian food is like every Hong Konger's birth right. This is definitely a statement I would agree with, not just because Hong Kong actually is lined with unauthentic Italian places, but also because of my unhealthy addiction to bad Carbonara. But a year ago I did a week long food tour of northern Italy (Emilia Romagna, Piemonte etc.), home to all the fresh pasta you can handle, which made me fall in love with really authentic, traditional Italian cooking.
A couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered some of those Italian flavours and textures right in the heart of Soho, at the amazing Bocca di Lupo. You can see how much heart and expertise is behind Bocca di Lupo simply by looking at the menu, which lists the exact region of Italy that the dish originates from. Bocca di Lupo also scores great points for hospitality, from the friendly and helpful staff who was willing to explain anything on the menu we hadn't heard of, to the impressive bread basket served as soon as you are seated.
Wanting to relive some of my food tour memories, I started with the agnolotti, which is a small, flat ravioli. The texture of the pasta was exactly how I remembered it, slightly chewy and eggy, and although the filling of veal and pork was quite mild, it went well with the walnut sauce.
Next, we had fried courgette flowers, which was perfectly battered and fried. Again, I thought the filling was a bit mild for my liking, but was enjoyable as a light starter.
For mains, we had two different stews. The first was braised baby octopus in red wine, which was very well done. The baby octopus was tender without losing all its texture from being stewed, and the red wine sauce was moreish and tangy. I love the use of baby octopus as it is not too commonly seen on menus here in London. Together with the refreshing and punchy red wine sauce, this dish brings you straight to a tropical seaside.
Next, we had one of the specials of the day, the peposo. We were warned twice that the dish would be very peppery, which did make me a little apprehensive because I'm not the best with spicy food, but I didn't have a problem at all. Although there were whole peppercorns dotted around the stew, the other flavours of the stew were balanced and the pepper was not overpowering at all. The ox cheek was extremely tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth, and the whole dish was very enjoyable.
Another food tour memory, I insisted on drinking Moscato d'Asti over dinner instead of dessert. The wine list at Bocca di Lupo is extensive, featuring a lot of Italian wines. There were even several varieties of Moscato d'Asti alone!
For dessert, we tried two dishes I had never heard of. Firstly, we braved the sanguinaccio, which is a sweet pate made of chocolate and pig's blood. I say braved because I'm not usually a 'blood' person, steering very clear of things like black pudding. Luckily, the blood is subtle in this dessert, coming as more of a gamey twang to the chocolate pate.
Finally, I had le palle de nonno, which I ordered simply because the translation was 'grandpa's balls'. These were fried balls of ricotta mixed with chocolate, not overly heavy or too sweet even when dusted with sugar, and was a great way to round our meal off.
Although the decor of the place is very modern and upmarket, I love that the food at Bocca di Lupo is rustic and down to earth. You can see that even from the way that the food is presented - no frills or glitz and glamour, just good honest food. Another great thing about Bocca di Lupo is that almost everything comes in both small and large sizes, which allows you to try a lot more of their great dishes!
Price: £ £ £ out of 5
You can find the Bocca di Lupo home page here.