In my mission to try all of the best pasta restaurants in London, Bancone in Charing Cross was next on my list. So far in the series, I’ve visited and reviewed Flour & Grape, La Nonna, Emilia’s Crafted Pasta and now Bancone. I’ve still got Padella and Lina Stores on my list to try – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
“Bancone” literally means bar or counter in Italian and that’s definitely one of the highlights of the Bancone experience; if you’re lucky enough to get a spot at the counter or “dining bar”, you can watch the chefs in the open kitchen skilfully prepare the fresh pasta in front of your eyes. Naturally the counter is where everybody wants to sit but you can get normal tables and booths too which are more sociable for larger groups.
It’s a long, pale room with marble style tables, filament bulbs and a very minimalist but modern ambience. On a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was packed and we were fortunate in that we were able to book a table in advance as many of my favourite places in London don’t take bookings. However, it was very busy and there’s a fine line between cosy and sitting on top of each other. I didn’t mind as it felt intimate but larger tables might be slightly more comfortable.
As I write this, my autocorrect keeps turning Bancone into Bacon. A little bit of bacon and Bancone would be perfect!!
Bancone – What We Ordered
A good meal starts with wine and I’m always pleased when restaurants serve wine by the carafe – sometimes a glass isn’t enough and yet a bottle is too much (for a week night at least). Venice is very close to my heart and so we chose a 500ml carafe of the Ripasso, a medium bodied Venetian wine (£35), along with some Still Water (£3).
On first inspection of the menu, it looks a little scary – you won’t see a traditional pasta carbonara or a tomato sauce on the menu. Bancone is anything but traditional and creates dishes that challenge the culinary boundaries, taking inspiration from the twenty regions of Italy.
To start, I knew I wanted to try the Burrata with Radicchio Tardive & Squash (£9.50) because oozy, cheesy burrata is one of my favourite Italian starters but I usually feel apprehensive when I see it served without bread. Luckily the waitress suggested we order some of the Honeyed Garlic Focaccia (£4) to go with it. This made it quite an expensive starter but its ideal for sharing.
I wasn’t sure what to order so I asked the waitress what the most popular dish was and ordered it without hesitation. The Silk Handkerchiefs with Walnut Butter and Confit Egg Yolk (£9) is regarded as their signature dish; paper thin pasta folded up into handkerchiefs, nestled under walnut butter with a wonderful earthy flavour. This is not something that I would normally choose to order, especially after reading the description on the menu. The egg yolk would have put me off but this is a dish I’ve seen photos of countless times on Instagram and so I decided to follow the crowd and try it. I was blown away by silk handkerchiefs dish and I was talking about it for days afterwards. The pasta was soft and buttery, the egg yolk was silky without tasting ‘eggy’ and the walnut butter was soft and nutty. At first, I thought I could demolish the dish quite easily and even thought it would be too small but it was actually quite rich and filling so I’m satisfied that it was in fact the perfect size. At only £9, I thought this was fantastic value for money.
It’s fresh pasta made in front of you at Pizza Express prices.
My friend ordered the Spicy Pork & N’duja Ragù with Mafalde (£11) which is probably the closest dish to a classic ragu bolognese you’ll find on the menu. I loved the squiggly pasta shape which was a little more unusual and the dish was certainly fiery but full of flavour. I had my eye on the Hazelnut Chocolate Brûlée (£7) but in all honesty I was too full to manage a dessert but it gives me a reason to go back (not that I needed one).
Bancone – 8/10
Fresh pasta at a great price and
Food – 8/10
Service – 8/10
Decor / Ambience – 8/10
The total cost for two people was £80.44 including service and drinks.
Have you visited Bancone before? Feeling Inspired? Check out my London Restaurant Hit List!
Bancone, Covent Garden
39 William IV St