With the promise of luxe Italian cooking in the heart of Mayfair Bocconcino is, at first glance, one of those illusive spots best saved for the rich and glamorous.
Situated a stone’s throw away from the likes of Nobu and Novikov, Bocconcino is surrounded by the go-to hangouts for oligarchs and trust fund babies. This is the very expensive blue square on a Monopoly board and from appearances alone Bocconcino fits right in.
As my partner and I arrive for a mid week (gotta get through that hump day) dinner reservation, we find the restaurant- set beautifully over two floors- to be a hive of chatter and warmth. There are families, and dinner dates, groups of girls on a night out and of course a fair number of suited and booted businessmen who have no doubt lingered relatively close from wherever they’re staying. It’s a good mix, and for the location and the decor, the vibe is surprisingly casual.
The staff are friendly and sincere when recommending their favourite dishes; there’s no pushiness to upsell, which you find all too often in high end establishments. When I mention that I don’t drink alcohol, it’s met not with a frown (which it so often gets) but with a smile and the suggestion of a non-alcoholic mocktail instead. Throughout the entire meal the staff swoop in and out, there if needed but otherwise unobtrusive, and the pace is calm. You feel like a guest and there is no rush to get you out for the next seating.
After a starter of tastily seasoned Rosemary foccacia (£5 and enough for two to nibble on contently), the mood is set for what looks to be a smooth meal.
Bocconcino’s wood-fired oven is proudly on display in the downstairs section, and the restaurant itself cites the pizzas as their speciality, so of course it seemed only right for us to try one. My partner opts for the Quattro Stagioni pizza (£15) whilst I instead choose another Italian speciality: pasta. The Cannelloni of veal ragu & mushroom catches my eye immediately, and at £19 it’s actually one of the cheaper items on the menu.
Service is paced nicely and when the food arrives I’m immediately hit by the smells of Italy; tomato, meat, cheese. The portion size of two cannelloni doesn’t look huge to the eye but actually, they are filled generously with vast amounts of tender, melt in the mouth veal tinged with subtle notes of mushroom and truffle. The pasta itself is rolled thin and evenly- and is cooked perfectly. Everything is seasoned well, which is refreshing in a world where chefs are frequently shying away from the use of salt and pepper due to the picky nature of certain customers.
The pizza too is good, and topped lavishly with ham, olives, mozzarella and fresh artichokes. With a thin and crispy base, it’s a throwback to summer nights spent in Florence and my partner demolishes it in one easy sitting.
Desserts for me are what I look for in a restaurant. I’m a pastry chef and my body is 80% sugar so no matter where I’m dining; I look at the dessert menu first.
At Bocconcino the menu is a small selection of traditional Italian desserts; Tiramisu is there, as is of course Profiteroles. But in the end it’s the Pistachio semi-freddo (£9) which I choose. I realise pretty much immediately that this is the right choice when our waitress for the night excitedly exclaims “That’s my favourite too!” You can’t feign that level of excitement.
My partner chooses the Passion fruit cheesecake (£8). It doesn’t matter where we are, if there is a cheesecake on the menu he will choose it, all the more eagerly if it’s coated in passion fruit.
The cheesecake is simple and delicious; a creamy body, tart passion fruit coulis which oozes off in running droplets, and a buttery biscuit base.
But it’s the semi-freddo which is the real star of the show. A smooth and luxurious pistachio frozen mousse, every bite a creamy delight studded with whole nuts for that extra texture. The presentation- berries, coulis and a buttery tuile, give the dish a real prettiness. It’s a lovely, joyful thing.#
In many restaurants the desserts are often an afterthought, tagged onto the end of a full menu without much thought, but at Bocconcino they are a celebration and the meal ended on a high.
So, why dine here?
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a quick eat on a budget then Bocconcino isn’t going to be the spot for you. If you’re dieting and want to steer clear of anything carb heavy then again, I probably wouldn’t recommend any Italian restaurant. But, and there is a but; if you want good traditional cooking, in the heart of Mayfair, with a great vibe and lovely staff then Bocconcino is somewhere to think of. Dining in Mayfair can so often be a real bank breaker, and for that reason alone, Bocconcino is a winner. It’s definitely reasonably priced for the location, and you can eat a good meal without blowing a fortune- especially if you go easy on the drinks.
Ultimately would I go again? Yes. Am I full? Yes. Will I be dreaming of that semi-freddo tonight?
I was invited as a guest, however all views and opinions are of course my own. I very much thank the staff and chefs at Bocconcino for a lovely meal.