Instagram-friendly dishes and top-quality pasta make Bancone one to bank on.
I’ll be candid with you before we start: this is less a review than it is a chance for me to rave endlessly about what’s quickly become one of my favourite restaurants in town. And honestly, if you head along, I’m pretty confident it’ll be one of your favourites too. Firmly ensconced among the best pasta restaurants in London, Bancone serves up winning dishes with more than a little flair – with one plate in particular being a firm favourite in the foodie corners of Instagram.
Yes, if a restaurant can be identified by just one dish, then Bancone’s notorious ‘silk handkerchiefs’ are the crowning achievement of Italian craft and social media nous. It’s a dish that fully deserves the hype afforded to other iconic plates – think Dishoom‘s bacon naan or TĀTĀ Eatery’s katsu sando for equivalent champions – for being both instantly recognisable and utterly delicious. Giant sheets of pasta, left tantalisingly al dente, are dressed with walnut butter and a confit egg yolk that spills golden goodness over the plate; the result is sinfully, riotously good.
Having said all of that, we didn’t actually go for the handkerchiefs until prompted by our excellent hostess. This is an understandable oversight: Bancone is one of those rare, glorious restaurants where there are only two options: great choices and brilliant choices. The menu is an absolute wonderland, and if you close your eyes and just point, you really aren’t going to go too far wrong.
A perfect meal, however, looks a little something like this. Start with the pillowy soft focaccia, given new life with an addictive hit of honeyed garlic, and the gorgonzola-filled fried polenta, served with leeks, coppa, and nutmeg. With the pasta dishes, our highlights had to be the ox cheek mezzaluna ravioli – delightfully tender, and boasting a sweet, rich port butter – and those dreamy silk handkerchiefs, though the venison ragu pappardelle was a close third.
That’s almost certainly enough to feed two people, but since both the menu and our hostess actively encouraged it, we also opted for the side of crispy suckling pig belly, which proves emphatically that Bancone can do wonderful things beyond pasta. Dessert (obviously) followed, and here followed a clear split: on one hand, the big, crowdpleasing flavours of the hazelnut chocolate brûlée; on the other, the basil semifreddo with pistachio crumb & raspberry, all subtlety and intrigue, with the herbaceous basil and sweet raspberry held in delicate balance by the nuttiness of the pistachio. To be on the safe side, get both. Oh, and maybe an Amaresso Martini if you have room.
Oh, and the tree! It’s a sign of top-drawer cooking that I’m 400+ words into this review without mentioning the decor, which, in the Soho spot, boasts a olive tree at the centre of one counter (‘bancone’ is Italian for ‘counter’, so there are a few of them dotted around). It’s a canny nod to the snap-happy tendencies of the modern diner, who certainly won’t be discouraged by the muted grey and green tones, slick tiling, and antique mirrors dotted around the place.
There are two final reasons to love this place. First, a wait staff that are both extremely knowledgeable and genuinely excited about the food on offer, and thus handily equipped to recommend something to the indecisive. And secondly, the price: pasta dishes start from as little as £9, and you can easily manage a starter, main, and glass of wine for £20 a head.
I’m not the first to rave about Bancone – indeed, the Michelin guide awarded them a Bib Gourmand earlier this year – and I certainly won’t be the last. Really, the only downside to Bancone I can see is that there are only two of them, in Covent Garden and Golden Square. Still, if they keep everything as flawless as it was when we visited, that’s going to change rather quickly…
Featured image: @bancone.pasta
Also published on Medium.