Hungry Like the Wolf @ London’s Bocca di Lupo

Slowly but surely, after numerous trips to London, I am building up my “Must-Eat” list of places to dine when I am in this wonderful city. A melting pot of different cuisines, with a plethora of choice from cheap and cheerful to luxurious and extravagant, London’s food scene is tongue-titillatingly exciting! What I find lacking in Hong Kong are the mid-range priced restaurants that serve GOOD food, unlike so many establishments where a HK$400 spend will get you:

a) a glass of wine and a portion of two wonderfully delicious yet overly priced foie gras mini-burgers

or

b) a glass of wine, a plate of nachos and a superbly mediocre burger.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little bit, and I don’t mean to knock my own city. You all know that I eat out a lot in Hong Kong, and that I enjoy a lot of what I eat. In fact, if you care to participate in this debate, I challenge and invite you to comment on this post!  Let me know your favorite meals in Hong Kong in the $400 per person range (and that’s including a glass of tipple), restaurants that surprised you the first time you went, and that consistently serve fresh, tasty and (most importantly) thoughtful food. I will one day write a post about this topic, but for now will keep my list to myself.

As always, I digress.

A warm and welcoming, and unassuming restaurant, located on a quiet street off the bustling Shaftsbury Avenue

A warm, welcoming, and unassuming restaurant, located on a quiet street off the bustling Shaftsbury Avenue

One of my new London favorites is now Bocca di Lupo (i.e. the mouth of the wolf), just a hop, skip and a jump away from Picadilly Station and Leicester Square Station. No need for Scottie to beam you up to Italy, you can just take the London Underground!

BDL was opened in 2008 by Jacob Kenedy, an academic turned chef who approaches his food in an informed way. The dishes can be sampled in small and large plates, allowing diners to design their dinner experience.  Each item on the menu is classified by the region in Italy that it originates from, and other dishes are creations of the chef.

At the time of my visit, their menu featured a B.Y.O TRUFFLES OPTION! Forget “V” for vegetarian, dishes marked with a “T” are recommended as ideal to have with truffles, which you can buy at Gelapo across the street.  Genius.

All of this technical stuff aside, the food is simple, honest, fresh and so gosh-darn tasty – your appetite becomes like that of the wolf. You want to devour everything. I went to BDL twice during my 2 weeks trip to London, and I am nowhere near satiated.

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Watching the chef’s at work in their small open kitchen, from our chef’s counter bar seats

From the Crudi e Salumi section, we ordered a selection of seafood carpaccio. I am a big fan of sashimi sweet prawns, and those Mediterranean red prawns are as sweet as you can find them. The burrata came next, a creamy ball of goodness, smothered in olive oil and bursting over a bed of grilled vegetables – adding fresh mint instead of basil was an interesting touch. After this came the rose veal tartare, a delicate and flavorful meat that wasn’t seasoned like a  normal tartare, and didn’t really need to be.

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Crudità di mare – raw red prawns, sea bream & scallop carpaccio. GBP 14

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Burrata with marinated grilled aubergines, tomato, chilli & mint. GBP 9.50

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Battuto – rose veal tartare with a little oil & little else. GBP 9

We skipped the Fritti section and went straight onto Paste & Risotti. The venison and the wild boar ragús were rich and filling, with clean and crips flavours. By this point in the meal, we were getting pretty stuffed. It was the first time I had tried gnudi – (pronounced “nu-dee”), a type of gnocci made with ricotta and flour which that hails from Tuscany. They were light and fluffy, and a great match with the ragú.

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(Uncertain) Chifferi with venison ragú GBP 8 – although the pasta isn’t ‘olive leaf shaped’

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Sheeps Ricotta Gnudi with Lamb Ragu GBP 10

The star of the show for me, the dish that really blew my mind, was the Lobster Spaghettini! This is the stuff of pasta wet dreams – a succulent Scottish lobster, teeming with roe and cholesterol-y goodness, with a punch of chili, a scent of ginger, and topped with fat mussels. The ginger was really the most interesting addition to this dish – it perfumed the pasta and gave a hint of ginger flavour that was just right.

Spaghettini with 1/2 lobster, mussels & ginger (Large) GBP 25

Spaghettini with 1/2 lobster, mussels & ginger (Large) GBP 25

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London’s Borough Market

It’s 5am in Hong Kong, and I am wide awake. I’ve just returned from my annual November business trip to London, and it is about 8pm there, so naturally, I am thinking about … food! My most memorable food experience this time is definitely London’s Borough Market, it was an amazing foodie adventure that I would recommend to anyone visiting London. Whilst a trip to the market may not sound like the most exciting thing that one can do in London, you will most definitely be pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know why it took me so long to visit  Borough Market, I have heard about it time and time again, and it’s unlike me to be lazy about this sort of thing. It was only after my friend SN said that she visited during her recent trip to London (her first time!) that I mobilised the troops (me and my brother) to visit on a Friday morning, when all of the stalls are open and the market is teeming with edible temptations. So thank you SN for the inspiration!

Under the bridge, downtown

Part of the market is located directly under the Borough High Street railway bridge, which was completed in 2011 but won’t have any trains running across it until 2016. We hopped on the Tube and went all the way down to London Bridge station, towards the south east on the Jubilee Line. The market is close to the station and really quite easy to locate – just look for the huge railway bridge!

A pan very easily the diameter of a 32″ TV screen

Upon entering the market, the first thing we were greeted by was a HUGE pan of simmering red sauce, next to an equally huge pan of paella. This is Café Brood, one of the bigger cafés which has lots of indoor and outdoor seating.

Eyes wide open and stomachs growling, we went in search for our lunch. It is quite a dilemma to have so many choices with limited-sized stomachs! Whilst there are a few nice cafes and restaurants around, it’s much more fun to get something from a stall and eat it sitting on a park bench, and then go in search for more. Whilst we were walking around, I spotted a lady walking by with a plate of new potatoes and cornichons (mini pickles) covered in a glorious amount of melted cheese – RACLETTE!!! “Follow that plate!”, I said to my brother! We found the raclette stall and joined the line of fellow hungry people.

Raclette!!

The wait passed quickly, as we watched the raclette-makers swing the cheese holder around and out to expose the bubbling half-moon of cheese. As they deftly lifted the huge block of cheese and scraped the top layer onto a plate of tender new potatoes, there were a lot of “oooooooooh”s and “aaaaaaaah”s – and all the tourists (including us) scrambled to take out our cameras to catch the next scraping. Continue reading

Casual London

I LOVE going to London on business trips, looooooooove it! It’s a great chance to see friends and visit my favorite restaurants, and we always manage to bring the sunshine! After 19 straight days of torrential rain, the sun came out on the day we landed, and I was hopeful that it was a good sign of a great week to come!

We stayed at Fraser Place for the first day, near Hyde Park. It’s a neat place for long and short stays (£200 nett for a one bedroom apartment, although if you stay longer the daily rate is less), with functional one or two bedroom apartments a stones throw away from some great sights.

If you want to fit in a great load of sightseeing in one hour, pull on some running shoes and head to a park, any park! Since we arrived at our accommodation at 8am, that’s exactly what I did, and it beats running Bowen Road x 1,000.

My running tour of Hyde Park: Kensington Palace – William and Kate’s future residence. Shadow art display at The Serpentine. Royal Albert Hall and a big red bus. Lounge chairs by the Round Pon

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