One of London’s more refreshing food discoveries in the last five years or so was the profit margin in making your own pasta. Seriously. At the risk of blasphemy, a bag of 00, a few eggs and it’s a miracle akin to that loaves and fishes one. You can’t quite feed 5000 – unless your dad is, well, you know – but sometimes it doesn’t seem that far off. Saying that, my domestic attempts range from the vaguely decent to the moderately satisfactory, a comparison that seems even more distant when you visit somewhere that does it so, so well. Such as Bancone.
Love of Bancone feels a bit like a private club. We should have a secret handshake or something, maybe a code word: “cacio?” “E pepe.” For such a clearly successful restaurant – the rapid expansion from the Covent Garden original to the Golden Square site shows there’s a LOT of us – finding people in the know, so to speak, is an oddly rare occurrence. Accordingly, I’m in two minds about writing this. Do I spread the word because, well, it’s so reliable, such good value, fun and delicious? Or should I keep it just between those already in the know because I’m going to want a table at some point at least twice a month?
Ah. Right. So, yes, after a polite – cough – word from the Editor, it’s got to be the former.
The short menu is deceptive but packs a punch way above its four starters / eight pasta mains. Ingredient sourcing is clearly done by someone with a love / knowledge of Italy: the burrata is one of the best I’ve tried in London, the salumi impeccable. They’re great but perhaps a mere distraction from the joys of those mains, and skipping the first course means you don’t necessarily have to decide which one pasta you’ll have. Take (at least) one friend, share and… I mean, you’re going to want to try the new seasonal variants and new additions, because, well, at the time of writing, that includes things such as pappardelle with sauteed chicken livers, brandy and sage, or Cornish cod, tagliatelle, tomato, caper, olive. But choosing those? That’s at the cost of the silk handkerchiefs, walnut butter and confit egg yolk or the bucatini cacio e pepe, both of which are just *chef’s kiss*. If you’ve been to Bancone and not had one of these, have you REALLY been to Bancone?
Yes, okay, I should also nod to the cocktails – the signature Negroni is a cracker, there’s usually something suitably refreshing to try – and, in particular, the wine. The list annotation should serve as an example to other restaurants, from clarity of description to just enough of the story, and the serves – 125ml / 500ml/bottle is pretty much perfect. The selection is also spot on, with chances to try the familiar and the “rogue” Italian varietals. It’s a wine education, if you want it, or just a very drinkable offering if you don’t want to think about it too much.
In case it feels like I’ve drunk the Bancone Kool-Aid, I do, have complaint. The booths. I mean. I know I’m not exactly sylph-like but seriously? It’s people like me that eat and keep restaurants going. The very least you could do is offer a booth where PEOPLE WHO WILL BE EATING PASTA AND CHEESE AND BUTTER can actually fit. To be fair, that’s a London-wide thing. Tiny booths suck. While this opinion did once inspire a friend to a fine A Few Good Men reference – “you want the booth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE BOOTH” – it’s a hill I’ll happily die on.
Happily Bancone also offer bar seating – great for the solo diner, something I wish more places would adopt – and comfortable tables with seats that move and everything. But bugger me, I LOATHE tiny fixed booths. Anyway, desserts are also grand, the coffee is good, you could always have another cacio e pepe…
Technically, Bancone is the kind of place you could pop into for lunch and emerge 30 minutes later, £20 lighter, and utterly set up for the rest of your day or evening. I’ve attempted that but typically failed, and ended up in the much more fun “two hours later, rather more than £20 lighter and incapable of very little bar more drinking or sleep” which, frankly, is the better club to join. But, whether you have willpower or none, if it’s not already, Bancone should be on your radar.
Bancone can be found in Covent Garden or Golden Square in London.