Great tapas at Chalk & Cork in Kloof Street

Today we’re heading to Chalk & Cork on Cape Town’s Kloof Street. It’s the road that connects the centre of the city to all the City Bowl neighbourhoods and is where Long, Orange and Buitensingel meet. More than that it’s a hive of activity with such a range of places to eat and drink you’re going to get confused if you wander for too long. On the up side you’re definitely going to find something that suits your needs.

Tapas-style eating is everywhere these days. Suits me as it means I get to try more of the dishes on offer and can avoid food envy when others’ orders look better than mine.

The slightly strangely named Chalk & Cork specialise in sharing plates. This small, quirky restaurant has a lovely outside area, perfect for Kloof Street people-watching, a small bar area downstairs and a few tables upstairs. It’s a cosy little place with welcoming service and a great feel. And there are corks all over the place, they’re part of the decor –  not so sure what the chalk has to do with it. Anyway, it’s certainly a name that sticks in the mind.

We shared a range of dishes which were all outstanding. The tempura of East Coast hake came with variations of peas – such a clever idea. Pea puree, peas in and out of the pod and pea shots added a beautiful sweetness to the flakey fish with its perfectly crisp batter.

Chalk & Cork hake

Sweet and crunchy hake tempura with peas

The smoked tomato risotto was served with sour cream and charred corn. The smoking certain gave the dish a unique flavour and the sour cream added extra zest.

Chalk & Cork risotto

Soft and smoky tomato risotto

My favourite of the dishes we ordered was the aged beef steak which was served with pickled carrots atop an aromatic green curry sauce. The steak was so perfectly cooked and the sauce had a lovely creaminess and a real chilli kick. Think I’ll have to keep the whole bowl for myself next time. And doesn’t it look beautiful?

Chalk & Cork steak

Beautifully tender beef on a bed of spicy green curry sauce

Finally, this stunning plate of food is their new potato salad with a herb aioli, walnuts, radishes and celery. Wonderfully crunchy and crisp with the herbiest of dressings.

The herbiest of new potato salads

We did also enjoy a plate of lamb meatballs with mint yogurt, peas and fresh basil. Sorry for the lack of photographic evidence.

I will definitely go back to Chalk & Cork. I loved all their dishes, the service was fabulous and it has a lovely, relaxed feel – and an excellent wine list. Most of all, it’s really great value for money.

Writing about Kloof Street turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated as my autocorrect kept changing it to Aloof Street, which made me laugh (although it was incredibly annoying!). There’s certainly nothing Aloof about this street!

Today’s price point

Two gin and tonics, five tapas dishes and two bottles of wine cost us R638. (Around £40 at today’s exchange rate).

It was plenty of food for four people.

Chalk & Cork is at 51 Kloof Street, Cape Town.

The many wonders of Catalunya’s Cistercian Route

I was going to call this Spanish story “Eating my way along the Cistercian Route” but decided that sounded rather greedy and most importantly it’s far from the whole truth. Yes, there was a lot of eating going on and very good eating it was, too, but there was so much more to explore and discover in the footsteps of the Cistercians.

The Cistercian Route connects the three monasteries of Santa Creus, Poblet and Vallbona. It’s a beautiful land about an hour’s drive from the region’s vibrant capital, Barcelona. The area’s a hiking paradise with its footpaths of 105 kilometres (the most in Europe) and, as I soon discovered, has amazingly warm and welcoming people, spectacular scenery and some very interesting traditions. Oh and there’s all the amazing food (and wine) of course.

We took to the road ready to explore. First stop Valls, which boasts a unique tradition as the birthplace of the human towers or Castells. The community comes together to rehearse three times a week and there are international competitions with serious rivalry. I was lucky enough to witness a rehearsal and was soon awed by the spectacle as people clamber over each other to create a towering structure. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such combined speed, flexibility, strength and dedication. Simply marvellous.

castellers-1

The amazing spectacle of human towers

At the restaurant Test  in the Hotel Class Valls we were served up a range of delightful dishes. Like this colourful pineapple carpaccio topped with melt-in-the-mouth Spanish ham and a zesty dressing.

img_3926

Pineapple carpaccio topped with succulent jamon

img_3933

Savoury and flavourful broth at its best

Another Catalan tradition involves calcots, which are sort of like a sweet spring onion. Their harvest is celebrated every year when they are cooked over fire and peeled and eaten by hand with a generous helping of romesco sauce. It wasn’t harvest time when we were there but I did tuck into tempura calcots which were tasty, sweet, juicy and crunchy. Worth going back for that big celebration, I reckon.

img_3962

The delicate sweetness and crispiness of tempura calcots

On to the first monastery in the puzzle. Santa Creus, which was founded in 1168, is amazingly well-preserved and provides a great insight into Cistercian life. The stories are fascinating and the sheer scale of the place and its grand architecture are entrancing, making it easy to imagine a life very different and somewhat magical.

dsc01315

The spectacular design of Santa Creus monastery

Just outside the imposing gates of the monastery is the cosy local – Restaurant Catalunya. We ordered our main courses and were then fed plate after plate of local specialities – soft and sweet ham, anchovies, tomato toast, aubergines, they just didn’t seem to stop coming. It was a real feast with the warmest of welcomes and plenty of the local vino – that’s the Catalan way.

img_3953

A classic paella with fresh seafood

With all the deliciously tempting food to enjoy it’s great that there are plenty of hiking opportunities. Time to burn off some of those calories. We headed up the mountain from Montblanc up to the abandoned L’Ermita Sant Joan. Rocky, winding pathways through the depths of the forest, made even more beautiful by the swirling mist, led us to what felt a bit like the top of the world.

img_4020

Peering through L’Ermita Sant Joan into the misty distance

A meandering descent and we headed for today’s lunchtime venue – Riudabella Castle. Yes, lunch in a real castle – just when you think dining can’t get any better. Riudabella has recently started offering accommodation in the form of large studio-style apartments with fabulous vineyard and forest views – providing the perfect retreat.

dsc01413

Take in the view from your castle on high

We tucked into an amazing lunch in the huge,magnificent dining room, starting with a beautifully colourful array of canapés. For mains a delectable leg of pork which had been cooking in the medieval oven for 15 hours – so succulent!

dsc01447

A table loaded with tempting tapas

img_4057

The tenderest of slow-cooked pork

For dessert a local treat awaited. This is called Gypsy’s Sleeve – a delightfully light sponge rolled with lashings of cream and topped with sugar. One of the tastiest puddings ever, imagine eating sweetly flavoured fluffy clouds.

img_4071

Soft, sugary, creamy…heaven on a plate

Poblet is the largest inhabited Cistercian monastery in Europe, so keep your eyes peeled for one of the resident monks as you wander its corridors. A huge rain storm erupted during our visit providing a dramatic atmosphere for our explorations.

dsc01473

The cloister’s courtyard in the pouring rain

From an ancient monastery it was time to take millions more steps back in history to the Espluga Caves. Take a walk through eerie caves with displays explaining Spain’s prehistoric past and the story of the humans who made these caves their home for thousands of years. It’s a ghostly and somewhat spiritual experience.

img_4077

Time to step even further back in history

And then to dinner at the Hostal des Disset Fonts in L’Espluga de Francoli. We ambled through the streets of the sleepy town to our destination – another warming experience of great local food and wine.

img_4081

The substantial goat’s cheese salad

One of the nicest starters I’ve had in a long time, the sweetness of the chilled melon soup was perfectly complimented by the saltiness of the Serrano ham. A marriage of Spanish flavours made in heaven.

img_4083

The perfect mix of saltiness and sweetness

img_4086

Simple ingredients perfectly cooked

Montblanc is known as the centre of the Cistercian Route. It was founded in 1163 by King Alfons I and a lot has happened inside its protective medieval walls. The legendary fight between St George (Sant Jordi) and the dragon is alleged to have taken place here and the day is celebrated every year with a festival and the exchange of flowers and books. I could have meandered its cobbled streets for hours – popping into one (or several) of the many bars, cafes and restaurants scattered along them.

dsc01518

Medieval terraces in Montblanc

And now it’s time for lunch again. My favourite part of this amazing trip with its myriad highlights was soon turning into lunchtime. And today cemented it. We wound our way up narrow mountain roads to the village of Fores where we were welcomed into the Mirador de Fores, another cosy little restaurant with far-reaching views from on high across to the sea.

dsc01568

The best village restaurant in the world…possibly

The chef’s passion was clear in his descriptions of every dish (even with my limited Spanish I could get that much). He had our whole menu planned and we started with the juiciest of anchovies atop tomato and olive bread. A rustic classic bursting with flavours.

img_4106

Anchovies on toast doesn’t get better than this

And then croquettes – described by the restaurant as the best in the world! A huge claim but a fair one, I’ve eaten my share of croquettes and these are definitely up there. Large, and packed with chunks of chicken and luscious sauce.

img_4109

The tastiest chicken croquettas

Next course was this clever assembly of black sausage, a vegetable tower of potato and onion and crunchy crackling on the side. One of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted – I’ve got to try to work out how to make it myself. Or go back there soon!

img_4114

My top Spanish dish of the year…well one of them certainly

And the good stuff just kept coming. Slow cooked shoulder of lamb that melted in the mouth, sweetly caramelised onions and a crunch of fried aubergine. Ingredients couldn’t get much simpler or produce a tastier result.

img_4117

A totally tempting trio for mains

We also sampled a local stew made from rabbit, snails and chicken, traditionally eaten by the workers on the land. Hearty fare designed to give you strength.

img_4124

A hearty traditional stew

Dessert was a luscious cheesecake served with nuts, preserves and local honey. Heavenly.

img_4128

Finishing off a delightful lunch with a delightful dessert

One of my Spanish colleagues on our trip through Catalonia introduced me to Orujo – basically the local liquor drunk as a digestive after an indulgent lunch. The appropriate way to finish off your feast that definitely helps with the digestion. Thank you Jose, a new Spanish tradition that I’ve embraced.

img_4135

Colourful local liquor at Mirador de Fores

img_4145

Here’s the team outside their fabulous restaurant

Phew, that was some lunch – I’d go back to Catalonia just to repeat the experience. Seriously.

A new day dawns and it’s hiking time again. Today we took in scenes from the Spanish Civil War – lookout points, foxholes, bunkers cleverly hidden in rolling hills. A sobering sight and reminder of Spain’s recent and somewhat brutal history. Final destination, the monastery in Vallbona de les Monges, the only female monastery in the region and it still houses eight nuns.

img_4202

Vallbona de les Monges and its monastery nestle in the valley

And then of course it’s lunchtime, in another sleepy village. Rocallaura Cafe was full of locals on a sunny Saturday and offered simple, tasty fare.

img_4224

Love colourful signage, a great welcome

img_4230

Onion bread has never tasted so good

img_4237

Sausage, potato, aubergine and jamon, Spanish simplicity at its best

img_4238

The joy of the menu del dia

Final stop on our Catalonian odyssey is Verdu. Famous for its handmade ceramics (love a Spanish ceramico), imposing castle and the Miro a la Taula.

Views from on high in the shadow of Verdu castle

Views from on high in the shadow of Verdu castle

What better way to encapsulate Catalonia’s many treasures than a last-night dinner celebrating the art, food and wine of Spain. At Miro a Taula you’re guided through two tastings. The art of Miro and his contemporaries, including Dali, Picasso, Calder, Chillida and Barcelo and the food they ate.

Fabulous tapas, great art and the opportunity to absorb it all in peace and without crowds, a truly unique experience. Followed by a delicious dinner in the gallery.

img_4280

Some of my favourite Spanish ingredients on a platter

img_4289

The zesty fig and pomegranate starter

img_4290

Melt-in-the-mouth lamb with apricots

img_4267

The dining area in the centre of the gallery

I think this is the longest blog story I’ve ever written. And that’s because there’s just so much to share with you about this party of beautiful Catalonia. What a journey it was.

img_4264

The Catalonian flag against the blue Spanish sky

I was a guest of the Catalan Tourist Board on this trip.

I flew to Barcelona on Vueling.com

Tucking into tapas at Jose

Today I’m heading to Bermondsey, close to London Bridge station, an area of London I’m not at all familiar with. There’s always something new to discover in this great city. Of course this is no random decision, I’m heading with great purpose for a little tapas bar called Jose which is owned by chef Jose Pizarro.

Jose is inspired by the bustling tapas bars around La Boqueria market in Barcelona – one of my favourite places in the world – so that has to be a good start. You can’t book so to ensure we’d get in and to avoid my dislike of queueing we got there five minutes before it opened at noon. And we weren’t first in line. That’s how popular this little spot is. It is a very small space with two counters along the windows, a central island and a bar and it filled up almost immediately and remained so for the two hours I spent there with some coming and going.

Menus are chalked on two boards above the bar, offering cold and hot delights which change regularly. I recently fell in love with Gordal olives (literally translated it means fat olives) in Catalunya so ordered a bowl while we pondered our other choices. These are the queen of olives, large, luscious, zesty and substantial, once you’ve gone Gordal olive it’s hard to go back. Look how beautiful they are.

img_4305

Happiness is a bowl of fat olivesI

I don’t often order octopus, my best memory of it ever is at lunch in the seaside town of Cadaques in Catalonia. Though it was quite a few years back, those Spanish food memories do have a way of staying with me. I also remembered a recent conversation with a Spanish friend who said his favourite dish was Galician-style octopus (polio). So octopus it was, sweet, tender and smoky, served with perfect potatoes and plenty of paprika. I inhaled those paprika aromas as the plate was delivered.

img_4310

A simple, totally mouthwatering octopus dish

Beetroot abounds on menus these days, I’m glad to say. Today’s offering came with blue cheese, pine nuts and a rich, silken dressing. Large chunks of beetroot with bite with a sprinkling of chopped chives to finish off a delightful dish.

img_4308-1

A beautiful salad of plump beetroot

Clams are used in a wide range of Spanish classics and these sweet babies were served on a bed of paella-like rice, perfectly capturing the flavours of the sea on a plate.

img_4313

Clams lined up on their succulent bed of rice

I loved Jose, it’s totally my sort of place. A buzzy, happy atmosphere, friendly welcoming service and fabulous Spanish food. But do get there at noon if you definitely want to get in.

Today’s price point

Lunch for two including a bottle of wine, coffee and service came to £65.

Jose is at 104 Bermondsey Street, London SE1. There’s also his restaurant Pizarro’s down the road at 194 Bermondsey Street where you can book. Think I’ll back Bermondsey-way before too long.

Square Meal

Fabulous flavours from the grill at Ember Yard

Ember Yard is the fourth restaurant in the Salt Yard group. Everything on the menu is cooked on a custom-built, bespoke Basque-style grill (hence the embers) and dishes have both Spanish and Italian influences, particularly from the Basque Country and Tuscany.

I discovered afterwards that the head chef, Jacques Fourie, is South African which kind of makes sense with the SA passion for braaing (barbecuing). But these are no basic barbecue dishes, they really are something special. And as well as grilled delights you’ll find great charcuterie and cheeses from both countries.

The thinly sliced carpaccio-style tuna was beautifully tender and topped with a zesty oniony marinade.

IMG_2672

The freshest of flavoursome tuna

And then for a real vegetable revelation. Cauliflower coated with harissa, honey and oregano and wood-roasted. Never has cauliflower tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

IMG_2674

Cauliflower in shades of red topped with fresh oregano

IMG_2675

Another view of the delectable cauliflower

And here’s another masterpiece – chargrilled Iberia Presa with whipped jamon butter. Presa is a special flavourful, melt-in-the-mouth cut of pork that comes from the free range acorn-fed Iberia pigs indigenous to Spain. It’s pork like no other pork and the butter is something incredible.

IMG_2678

A simple pork dish to marvel at

The crisp, Iberico pork fat chips are served with chorizo ketchup.

IMG_2682

Chunky chips that are fluffy inside

IMG_2680

Chorizo ketchup is so good

If we could all cook like this over fire, all ovens should be abandoned at once. Seriously.

Today’s price point

Our four dishes cost £31.50.

Our bottle of Rose cost £30.

Ember Yard is at 60 Berwick Street, Soho

Square Meal

Travel: The sights and flavours of Madrid

My love of Spain is well documented and I can never resist the chance to hop on that short flight from London’s often grey chilliness (even in summer) towards azure skies and sunny days. Today’s destination is the Spanish capital.

Madrid is a comparatively new city as its story doesn’t begin until AD852 when the Moors built a fortress near the Manzanares River. Okay that is a way back, but to put it all into some perspective, that was 21 centuries (yes, centuries) after the Phoenicians founded Cadiz (city of my forefathers incidentally) and six centuries after the Romans constructed Italica near Seville. And it was only established the permanent capital in 1561 by Felipe II.

It’s a city of grand boulevards, myriad plazas and roundabouts abounding with flowers, statues and fountains. Madrilenos (local Madrid-dwellers) are known for their spirited attitude and their refusal to conform to European hours. This is a city that never seems to sleep and one that buzzes with the constant chatter of a passionate and animated society. It’s the only place I can recall leaving a bar at 12.30 (am) and there being a rush to claim our recently vacated table – and that was on a Sunday night. Life here is lived on a different time zone.

Madrid is also a city of art with plenty of galleries and museums for a real culture fix. The Museo Reina Sofia displays a range of 20th century art including some Salvador Dalis and Picassos. The best of all is the amazing Guernica – Picasso’s famous depiction of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. And then there’s the Museo del Prado, known as one of the world’s greatest art galleries with a great collection by Velazquez and Goya.

Tabernas are dotted all around the city – little wine bar/restaurants offering delicious Spanish fare. The oldest of which is Restaurante Botin which was established in 1725 and claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world. It’s certainly pretty old and was said to be a favourite of Ernest Hemingway’s. Hemingway is credited with helping the world fall in love with Spain through his novels and he was a local legend in Madrid, spending long nights sipping gin at the Ritz before weaving his way through the winding streets in his quest for dinner.

IMG_2390

One of our local tabernas with a leg of jamon to tempt you in

He certainly had the right idea – the best way to explore the main areas of this lively city is on foot. We walked everywhere, sometimes getting lost which meant we discovered even more. You’re never far from a light refreshment or somewhere cool to sit. In summer Madrid’s a steamy city – it was around 38C when we were there in July, but there are plenty of trees, umbrellas and canopies and a lot of the bars spray a cooling mist over their customers.

IMG_2405

The colours of Madrid delight

So stop when you need to and take time to inhale the spirit (and scents) of Madrid.

Like in the Museo del Jamon (Ham Museum). How can you not love a city that has a Ham Museum? The aromas emanating from this establishment are incredible and there’s jamon hanging from the ceiling and walls as far as the eye can see. All around a long bar which is always (whatever time of day) packed with jamon eaters.

IMG_2430

You simply have to pay a visit to the Museo del Jamon

There was so much ham I had to use the Panorama function on my camera…you get the picture.

IMG_2377

Jamon…delicious jamon…everywhere

In the heart of Old Madrid, you’ll find the Plaza Mayor – the most famous plaza in Madrid. This beautiful 17th century square is filled with cafes and craft shops these days – its history is a bit bloodier with trials by the Inquisition and executions once being held here.

IMG_2388

The Plaza Mayor is packed with shopping and eating opportunities

Just to the side of the Plaza Mayor is the wonderful Mercado de San Miguel – how I love a Spanish food market. There are plenty of eating spots and lots of food to choose from, like these delicious croquetas in different flavours. The market is crazy-busy over weekends, packed with locals catching up on their social lives and has an amazing energy.

IMG_2264

Choose your croquetas and get them fried

Now that we’re on food, in Madrid it’s excellent, good value for money and varied. There are so many eateries to choose from that I didn’t even do any restaurant research, we just wandered the streets checking out our options until we spotted the one we liked the the look of. It worked for us. Like breakfast one morning in a little cafe right in the centre of Old Madrid where two coffees and my favourite Spanish breakfast – pan con tomato – cost us €4.

IMG_2426

Pan con tomate – the Spanish way to start the day

I also loved the way little tapas often appeared with drinks. You could explore the city by tabernas hopping and get your fill of tasty treats.

IMG_2467

Delicious mussel and smoked fish snacks appear

We loved the lively area around the Plaza De La Cebada where we partook of many beverages and watched the world unfold around us. There’s a lovely market just across the road (Mercado Cebada) where I couldn’t resist snapping the amazing fruity displays.

IMG_2441

Spanish cherries that glisten and gleam

IMG_2445

How I wanted to buy some and make gazpacho

The Puerta del Sol, right on the Calle Mayor and at the gateway to the main shopping area is kind of like the Leicester Square of Madrid. If you want tickets for something you’ll find them here. And just four blocks south of it through more winding lanes is the lively Plaza de Santa Ana. It’s all happening here.

IMG_2413

Sangria and Gin & Tonic – perfect drinks for a Madrid summer evening

We chose to have dinner at Ginger Restaurant in the square. A tasty meal, lovely friendly service and another chance to watch Madrid in all its energy unfolding around us. Ginger was also really good value with my delicious Iberian pork fillet mashed potato and curry oil costing €11.52. I loved the crispy spring onions on top.

IMG_2420

Spanish pork is world-class

Of course, all great cities have great parks and Madrid is no exception. And what could be more perfect than to stock up with delicacies at your local market before heading to Parque del Retiro for a picnic? The park which was once home to Felipe IV’s palace is now a large public oasis (since 1869) with majestic trees, impressively manicured areas and a lake which you can row on. It’s the perfect spot to get away from the busy-ness of the city should you feel the need.

IMG_2357

Meander through the tree-lined avenues of Parque del Retiro

On our way back to Old Madrid after our park-life sojourn we wandered through the trendy Chueca area – suddenly it was time for lunch. We stopped at a pavement cafe called Toma Jamon Tabernas and ordered two deliciously simple dishes. The best of tuna served with the reddest and juiciest of tomatoes and a superb dish of broken eggs and jamon, served on a bed of beautifully cooked potatoes. Wow! Such simple ingredients all bursting with flavour.

IMG_4083 (1)

Keeping it simple and delicious

The Palacio Real is on the other side of the Plaza Mayor. This vast and lavish Royal Palace was built to impress, set up on high overlooking the Rio Manzanares. It’s open to the public now as the current Royal family live in the more modest Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid.

IMG_2456

The beautiful palace looks regal against blue skies

Take a view of the palace from the other side – literally and metaphorically. When Joseph (Jose I) Bonaparte was King of Spain he carved out the stirrup-shaped Plaza de Oriente which provides a fabulous view of the vastness of this magnificent building. The square was once an important meeting place for state occasions and kings, queens and dictators all made public appearances on the palace balcony facing the plaza. The surrounding park area is filled with statues of monarchs and dignitaries from way back and you can feel the power the rulers were commanding from up on high.

In the south-west corner is the Cafe de Oriente which has outside tables where you partake of more Spanish deliciousness and ponder history.

Because there’s a lot to ponder when you’re in Madrid. And you feel like you don’t want to sleep because there’s so much Madrid energy to absorb. It’s a fascinating city with a unique spirit and a magnetic draw – I feel I’ll be back many times.

Salud from Madrid, a city to celebrate.

IMG_2422

Late-night brandies in La Latino

We stayed at the HRC Hotel in the La Latina district. A basic but comfortable hotel with good air conditioning (vital in the heat of a Madrid summer), set on a quiet street. And best of all easy walking distance to all the main sights and plenty of bars and restaurants.

Find out more at www.hrc-hotel.com

 

Tapas-style Italian at Bocco di Lupo

Today it’s time for a leisurely Saturday lunch in the heart of Soho. How I love Soho with its myriad bars and restaurants, food stalls, stylish people and quirky shops.

After much consideration we picked Bocca di Lupo as today’s lunchtime venue. It opened in November 2008 and has become a firm favourite on the Soho restaurant map.

The restaurant is dominated by a long welcoming bar that runs down its length. And we managed to nab top seats – at the end of the bar alongside the window.

From our prime position we overlooked the drinks pouring activity, which made it impossible to resist that Italian classic – a Bellini. This delicious cocktail, made of Prosecco and white peach puree or nectar, was invented sometime between 1934 and 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriano, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. He named it a Bellini because of its unique pink colour which reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. It looks stunning and tastes even better! What a good start to lunch.

IMG_1864

The prettiest of refreshing cocktails

Sipping on our Bellinis we pondered the delightful menu options – a wide range of regional Italian food and wine from all over the country. And you can choose small or large portions for most of the dishes.

We also overlooked a luscious leg of Parma ham ready for slicing and were soon feasting on a platter of the thinnest of tenderly sweet meat served with amazingly juicy orange melon. A simple, classic dish made perfect by the most fabulous of ingredients.

IMG_1867

Parma ham and melon have never tasted sweeter

A creamy ball of mozzarella sits atop beautifully thin marinated and grilled aubergine, tomato and chilli. Vegetables don’t get more intensely flavoursome than this, and combined with the cheese and olive oil it’s again a masterpiece of simplicity and taste.

IMG_1872

The best of the tastes of Italy on one plate

There’s a section called Fritti – which means fried. Here you can order a range of fried morsels and you can order them individually – they’re a couple of mouthfuls each. We tried the saffron, bone marrow and gremolata mini arancino – classic Milano risotto surrounded by a delicately crispy crumb.

IMG_1873

Classic risotto balls of crunch

And here’s a sage leaf filled with anchovy, battered and fried. One of my favourite mouthfuls ever.

IMG_1887

Herby, fishy and crunchy – a mouthful of heaven

There’s a range of pasta dishes on offer, we selected to have two small portions. First up nettle pappardelle with duck ragu. Vibrant green ribbons appeared smothered in melt-in-the-mouth duck ragu.

IMG_1881

Rich duck ragu served with vibrant pasta

The fazzoletti came with broad beans, their puree and pecorino. This is a miracle of simplicity with the thick, rustic handkerchief pasta covered with the silken sweetness of broad bean puree and a cheesy finish.

IMG_1884

Springtime broad beans make for a silkily sweet sauce

Bread and olives are delivered to your table while you’re pondering menu choices. Deliciously warm, soft onion-topped bread, shiny olives and olive oil with a fresh and spicy bite.

IMG_1857

The classic bread, olive and olive oil combo

I love the bar at Bocca di Lupo. Get there early like us and nab the corner seats by the window. You’ll find it hard to tear yourself away. Well, I always do.

IMG_1877

The stylish bar seating area

I’ve had requests to include a guide to menu prices in my posts, so I’ll include my price point at the end of each post. If there’s anything else you’d like to see do let me know,  I am here to help after all.

TODAY’S PRICE POINT

Lunch for two cost £100 including 2 Belllinis, a bottle of white wine and service.

Pasta dishes cost from £8 for small plates to £20 for large plates.

Items on the fritti section cost from £1.50 to £4.50 each.

Bocca di Lupo is at 12 Archer Street, W1.

Square Meal