It’s taken a while for us to get into Bocca di Lupo – which achieved the #1 slot in Time Out’s list of the fifty best restaurants in London in January 2009, just two months after it opened – mainly because we’ve never tried to book, but have just turned up ‘on the off chance’ a couple of times. Anyway, we managed it last night, though not without much umming and ahing about whether they could possibly fit us in – the ritual was something like “yes I should be able to fit you in – oh! no wait, let me check…” followed by 2 or 3 minutes of pencil sucking and staring at the (not very full looking) reservations book. This ritual was repeated all over again when the maitre d’ handed us over to his assistant when the telephone rang. We suspect this was intended to add to the drama of our experience, but it almost had us turning on our heels after the first wait, and certainly made us both wonder whether we’d want to put ourselves through that again, no matter how good the food.

The food was very good. Especially… crescentini, triangles of fried bread with scaqueroni cheese and cured meats; some fried mixed seafood, mainly because of the lovely wet porridge-like white polenta which came with it; and a ‘rustic pork and foie gras sausage’. The latter had the texture of a chunky pork sausage, but the foie gras gave it a much more gamey and rich aroma and flavour. This came with farro, which I’d not heard of before, but which turned out to be a rissoto-like accompaniment made with wheat grains, but with the texture of barley, i.e. soft but bite-resistant. Lovely. I wasn’t as impressed by the vegetable dishes we ordered (crisy artichoke hearts and girolles with parsley and garlic).

There are roasts, pasta dishes, etc., but we ignored those, and ate a total of six small dishes between three of as a ‘main course’. Whilst the portions generally weren’t mean, this did leave us with enough room for desserts, which were excellent, especially a generous and rich Cassata Siciliana, and which filled us up nicely. The food seemed good value for money, whilst the wines seemed rather expensive, but then perhaps they were all rather special – I find Italian wine a bit baffling. The house wine at £11 per 500ml carafe was perfectly ok – we had one of white and one of red, and the whole bill for three came to just under £100 – great value overall, bearing in mind the quality.

Service was more efficient than friendly. As you can imagine in such a popular place, plates were cleared pretty quickly, and the wait-staff hovering behind us to pick things up sometimes seemed a little obtrusive. On the other hand, by sitting at the bar, we were able to enjoy a little conversation with the Sardinian barmen, who were both cheerful and charming. The room is lovely – quite bright and polished upstairs, without being too harsh or noisy. I caught a glimpse downstairs of a warm and cosy looking private room – worth remembering for a special occasion perhaps.