From our seats outside a bar in Soho Friday night is in full swing. People moving gaily between venues, drinking and looking for a nosh, in London’s most diverse and accepting square mile. The new incarnation, the one with the pedestrianised streets which have stayed, hopefully forever, post COVID allow optimal people watching in an area where voyeurism is capital. Shop windows are for leather and fetish and groups pose for pictures outside the neon lights of peep shows whilst others venture inside. I’ve never understood peep shows. Surely it’s counterproductive to steering the car towards its destination if you have to take your hands off the wheel every few minutes to put more petrol in. There has to be an easier way to empty the tank in an heightened state and leave feeling all warm, fuzzy, and in need of a nap.
There is, and it’s still in Soho, though in the bit that’s almost in Mayfair so that nosh mostly sits on more affluent lips. It’s on the third section of the menu at Bancone, with all of the other pasta, second from top, under the cryptic name of silk handkerchiefs. Large sheets of pasta, ruffled like an unkept bed and with just enough bite not to warrant the safe word, dressed in a walnut butter with a barely warm egg yolk to let loose. It’s rich and salty and just a little bit sweet. It’s one of my favourite ever pasta dishes and at £9 it’s probably going to stop me reviewing a lot more London restaurants in lieu of it.
The rest of our dinner also comes from the pasta section. It’s all al dente – sometimes overly so – and has a confidence and understanding to know when to stop adding elements to the bowl. The bucatini cacio e pepe is a slippery, true rendition. The Parmesan, pasta water, and pepper mixture has the perfect viscosity to coat the pasta inside and out. It’s delicious. Mafalde grips on to a good pork ragu that could have taken more of the spicy, offally kick of ‘nduja, whilst strozzapreti is given the full summer treatment of a dip in a pea and broad bean purée. I find it a little hard work, whilst my other half loves the freshness of it. None of the pasta sits at over £15, allowing scope to find the bits of the menu that work for you.
There is a dessert; strawberries macerated in Campari with yoghurt foam and almond brittle. It’s a little breakfasty, but after all that pasta, a couple of cocktails, and a bottle of frappato, it’s a fresh and welcome finish. There is much to admire about Bancone which does pasta extremely well at a price which won’t break the bank. After dinner we stroll back through Soho to Trish’s, the underground dive bar with no signage and very few rules. It’s here what e sit and watch the live jazz. We don’t make it to the end; I’ve had my fill for the night. I’m all fuzzy. I need my bed.