Friday, 31 January 2014

A dish a day: Bocca di Lupo’s Rabbit Saltimbocca

The voracious eater on the dish that made her day
Every now and then, an evening falls into place. When you can, with half closed eyes, sit back and appreciate how right it feels and let it swim over you in that moment. Last night, London thrilled in a way I’d forgotten it could – I’d been away in dreamlike Brazil for three weeks on honeymoon; the cold rain quickly washed away any vestige of sun and samba – but wandering the streets of Soho surrounded by lights blinking and the sound of spirited drinking, I knew there was a reason this was my favourite city.

That moment last night happened in a dimly lit Bocca di Lupo, on a first date back in London with my new husband (I’m still stumbling over that word – I’m a terrible newlywed). We’d done that classic Soho thing of wandering from restaurant to restaurant after drinks, admiring yet annoyed at the queues outside each one. But of course, on the quiet of Archer Street, peering into the window of Bocca di Lupo was like looking into the warmth of your grandmother’s fireplace through a frosty window. It was irresistible. It was nostalgic. I’ll always remember my first visit here, when I ate one of the best pasta dishes of my life – rigatoni with guanciale (cured pigs cheeks); a simple dish but for some reason impossible to recreate.

To be honest, I could talk about the whole menu – the ungovernable cream of burrata (pictured) which licked the aubergine beneath, the clever clever salad of wafer thin radish and celeriac (layered with the salt tang of pecorino, bursts of sweet pomegranate, uplifted with the unmistakable whiff of truffle), the teal that was squashed open and grilled to perfection, and lay on a bed of deep red treviso.

But it was the first taste of saltimbocca that made us truly relax. We’d been frantically talking – about what Antonio Carluccio was eating (he was sitting on the next table, tucking into a treviso salad), about the future, about the crazy two weeks since coming back to work – and ate frantically to match. But when it arrived, the meal felt complete. Under a blanket of prosciutto was flattened rabbit loin – pale and glistening. Before each piece could reach our mouths, we would run it over the serving plate again, mopping all the rabbity Marsala it could; on bite - a little salty, a little sweet, a little tender, a little crisp.

After the meal, we ran over the road to Gelupo for some salted caramel and fresh mint ice cream. We huddled over a table and shared three scoops. It didn’t matter that we were in the thick of winter. This was what we were coming back for – the cold, the wet, Bocca di Lupo and a whole host of dates in the best city in the world.

Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB, 020 7734 2223
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