- Restaurant Name: Bocca Di Lupo
- Total Spending: £40
- Dining Duration: 1 hr 5 min (5:45 – 6:50)
- Awkward Level: 3/5
- Seating: Open kitchen bar
- Interaction with waiters/waitress: 8 times
I've heard so many positive reviews about Bocca Di Lupo. In fact, even before I knew it was a recommended place for solo dining, I have tried to dine there by myself twice (usually after a spontaneous stroll down the shopping area); unfortunately, it was always full. This time, I made sure to make a reservation to avoid disappointment. However, the online reservation experience was not so pleasant – seemed like they have blocked out all the prime dinner time unavailable for solo diners. I tried every single day to even a month later...no luck. I couldn't believe it, so I had to make a call. I tried to sound as normal and calm when I called, I didn't want the other end to hear that I had any sort of hesitation of dining by myself.
Arriving at the restaurant
When I arrived, the host greeted me by the reception stand (not sure if that's the proper name?) and told me that they have arranged me to be seated at the 'chef's table'. I knew that they had open kitchen and bars areas, but didn't know that it had a specific name. That for me was quite unique, especially I love watching the live action of bustling kitchen. Considering my reservation was at 17:45, the bar was still quite empty. I was the only one eating at the bar, and several customers drinking at the bar on the other end. There were also a few tables in the back of the restaurant, which was a seperate area. I felt quite isolated and stood out from the crowd, as I was the only customer at the bar. The staffs probably didn't pay much attention, but I definitely felt a sense of awkwardness, especially their conversation was mainly in Italian – I had no idea what they were talking about me. They could be talking about me and I wouldn't even have a clue (though I doubt that's the case).
I ordered a radish salad as an entree and a mushroom risotto from their special menu. While waiting for the food, I munched on some ciabatta, drank some wine and watched the chefs cooking with some fancy pan flipping techniques. The were four chefs on the shift and cooking non-stop. Two of them are mainly in charge of the stove and one with oven and one prepping food on the side. Their conversations are mainly about what dishes are coming up next, what orders have been made; very little casual chatting. All of them looked quite serious. It was definitely intense watching the chefs working, but at the same time quite enjoyable if you're into these kind of things. It's a great opportunity to watch how they streamline the cooking process. The experience was different from my other experiences with open kitchen, which sometimes the chefs would have a brief friendly conversation with you or serve you directly after the dishes are done. Here at Bocca Di Lupo, they have wait staffs assigned to these task.
From where I was sitting, I was directly facing the sous chef and also nearby where they set the finished dishes; then the expediter would assign wait staffs to distribute them to other tables. The advantage of it is that I get to see what's the most popular ordered dish of the night, and also seeing the variety of food they have, start thinking about what I'd like to eat next time when I come with more people, so we could try out more dishes. The disadvantage is that when the waiters/waitresses are waiting for the upcoming dish, they all grouped right next to me, which made me really awkward sitting there eating by myself.
After awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoying watching how the chefs were cooking the food, and also tried to 'decode' what they were communicating. There is a specific logic behind it. Based on my understanding, the expediter is the key communication person between sous chef and the other wait staffs. He tells the kitchen what has been ordered, and then notify the wait staffs when the dishes are ready to be served. Each table has a unique number, and everytime when a table has finished serving all their meals, the expediter says "Finished", as a sign of completion. With all the numbers and dish names, I was really impressed by how the sous chef could memorize all the information.
Since I have been dying to try this place for so long, I couldn't give up the chance of also trying their desserts, even though I was quite full already. I had two options in mind but I also wanted to get some suggestions from the waitress. She recommended the 'Bonet', saying that it's not as commonly seen in Italian restaurants like tiramisu but still quite a typical Italian dessert. On their menu it said 'chocolate, coffee, amaretti, caramel and rum pudding', which was hard to resist combination. Knowing that it would probably be a bit heavy, I still decided to give it a try. The first couple bites were pretty good, the dense and creamy texture was very satisfying, but after the fifth bite, I am getting tired of the taste. However, I didn't wanted to waste food, so I kept going...and going...until I finished half way, I finally gave up. I wonder if they could have served a smaller portion?
Given the reservation was so difficult, I think unless next time it's for special occasions or a friend specifically requested to dine there, I don't think I would make so much effort of dining here. With the constantly changing schedule of people, it's hard to plan ahead months to eat out. I wouldn't say that I particularly enjoyed the bar experience, since there wasn't much engagement and just sitting and watching. If I was with others, maybe it would be a nice conversation stimulation, but being there by myself, I didn't think it added much. Plus, Italian food tends to be more rich and creamy and having to finish the entire plate by myself is just too much. Ordering a variety and take home the leftovers don't seem like an option either, as the food usually don't taste as good after reheating. Well, at least now I can say that I've been to Bocca Di Lupo after the whole hype...
Bocca Di Lupo
12 Archer Street
020 7734 222