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Two trips to Soho and two recommendations

February 26, 2012

For me, every trip to London becomes a plausible excuse to try a new restaurant.  After all, I’ve got to do something to liven up the dining drudgery of Milton Keynes’ chain of chain restaurants, with only a handful of independents that are worth a second visit.  So, I was delighted to be have an excuse to visit Soho for the first time this year, when the Man About the House bought me a ticket for The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.  I had to hide the “oh, pre-theatre menu. Yay!” lightbulb moment I was having long enough to thank him for his kindness.

After deliberating the smorgasbord of choice that Soho offers, I decided it was about time we ate French again, so my partner-in-crime, Alison (whose husband had also bought her a ticket to Oz), suggested Gauthier, as we’d sampled a lovely taste from this restaurant at MasterChef Live last year.

I don’t like to use the word ‘bargain’ when describing a menu from a Michelin-starred restaurant, but at £26 for two courses plus half a bottle of wine each (which you could choose from a good selection), it’s hard not to be impressed by the value Gauthier offer.  Add in the canapés, the delicious choice of bread and the amuse bouche that you also get as part of the deal, not to mention the table water, excellent service and elegant and intimate dining rooms, and you’ve got yourself a real steal.  That is, if you avoid the champagne as an apertif; one glass costs half of what you’re paying for your set menu…

I shall definitely be returning.  Next time I may treat myself to one of the tasting menus.

Gauthier Soho, 21 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5AF
Tel: 020 7494 3111  Website: www.gauthiersoho.co.uk   Twitter: @gauthiersoho

My second trip to Soho was with the girls for our quarterly Posh Scoff Lunch Club outing.  It was Gina’s turn to choose and she elected the acclaimed Soho Italian, Bocca Di Lupo, as her choice, after reading much good feedback in both the press and online.  So four of us rocked up for a lunch of drinking and food debauchery and we didn’t leave disappointed.  Just full.

Describing itself as a ‘small and humble trattoria at heart’ that specialises ‘in the obscure and the delicious highlights of food and wine from all across Italy’s twenty regions’, Bocca Di Lupo presents itself as a restaurant where anyone, and everyone, would feel comfortable dining.  We all commented on the mixed age ranges we were surrounded by and how pleasant the atmosphere that exuded from both the room and the staff serving us.

We found the menu a little confusing at first, as there was a huge choice, in both small and large plates, but a quick question to the nearest waitress clarified things for us.  So we ordered a lot of small plates to share.  The food was rustic and authentic, with a reasonable price tag to match.  Our hearts were captured by the fried food selection and in particular, the sage leaves stuffed with anchovies and the large olives stuffed with pork and veal mince.

We sampled two pasta dishes and a risotto and everyone was simply blown away by the tortellini of prosciutto and mortadella with cream and nutmeg.  The only downside to this dish for me was the fact that I had to share it with three other people!  The parmesan risotto with black truffle was also a sensation.

We were less taken by the next part of our meal, which included a mixed seafood selection of whole lobster, monkfish tail and scallops, as well as two side dishes and a plate involving veal tongue and a cured sausage.  Out of all of it, we were most impressed by the cold side of Romanesco broccoli, with parsley & oil.  It’s not really a great sign when a £26 lobster dish gets outshone by the £6 vegetable side dish, though, is it? But even now I’m not sure if that is because the broccoli dish was so outstanding or because the fish was lacking in something…

Despite the number of dishes we had already sampled, there was yet room for dessert, so we all opted for the gelati and sorbets to refresh our palates and clear the way for some more after-dinner drinking.  They were well worth saving room for too.  I had the ‘Gelato cup bonet’  which was amaretti soaked in rum, bonet gelato, salted caramel gelato and an espresso syrup.  It was simply scrumptious.

Maybe one of the most pleasant surprises of the meal was when the bill arrived.  Despite guzzling four glasses of Prosecco, two bottles of wine, a half bottle of dessert wine, around 16 savoury dishes and a dessert each, the bill came to just £70 each.  You might raise your eyebrows and think that’s an expensive lunch, but the Posh Scoff outings ususally tip us over the ton per person, so we were all happy with this result.  And we have all vowed to return.  Soon.

Bocca Di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB
Tel: 020 7734 2223 Website: www.boccadilupo.com   Twitter: @boccadilupo

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