Stu Deeley is at Laghi’s. Kind of. Stu Deeley is very much still at Smoke, though he is at Laghi’s once, maybe twice a week, with a team at Laghi’s cooking Stu’s food when he is at Smoke, or being a Dad and a husband. Truth is I’ve known about this for a while, seeing, and occasionally eating the specials they’ve been trialling at Laghi’s, before going to one of the quite secret pre-launch services with a far better food writer than I. He loved it – obviously – as did I, for yet another fabulous lunch with a mate. But I couldn’t exactly write about it. Darn, I couldn’t really talk about it. You see when the big guns come I’m little more than a tour guide, albeit one happy to drink on their expenses.

If I was chuffed for Laghi’s then, I’m more chuffed for them now. It’s an odd but seemingly perfect fit, as are the cocktails from Passing Fancies and the new wine list from Wine Freedom that sees them go all natty on yo’ ass. It’s given everyone there a lift. The place is buzzy and it seems that everyone has elements that they are excited about, which is a vast improvement on a previous tenure when the mood was low and the menu static.

And so the food. It’s excellent. Italian-ish dishes that utilise Luca’s Italian produce combined with a new, Masterchef The Professionals winning brain that punctuates the flavours with tiny, well-thought-out twists. Courgette and ricotta fritters are ideal starts, racey little pucks that welcome in Spring with acidity and a punchy aioli, as are bombolone – little donuts to you – with red onion marmalade and a classy goats cheese that even this goats cheese hater enjoys. Crudités of fennel, bitter leaves, carrot, and romanesco cauliflower arrive with a rocket pesto that I love. Sophie prefers to dredge hers through the aoili. I reserve comment.

Scallops with Espelette sauce seems destined to be the crowd favourite. The queenies are impeccably timed, covered in a creamy mayo-based sauce that kicks with fruity pepper notes. And whilst the focaccia isn’t my favourite thing we order, it works a treat at mopping-up the last of it. On paper a cauliflower with arrabiata sauce looks punchy at fifteen quid. In reality it’s anything but; a hefty stump of caramelised veg a little bit Ottolenghi and punching with just enough chilli to get the bodies constitution moving.

We order two of the three pastas, omitting the carbonara which has been tweaked to spaghetti. Cacio e Pepe is seriously peppery and all the better for it, the cheese and pasta water properly amalgamated in a way that defeats many. I love the campanelle, it’s ruffled skirt clinging on to the sauce of ‘nduja mixed with the same espelette seen in the scallops with the crunch of pangrattato. Now I’ve eaten that menu practically in its entirety twice I can tell you that my solo lunch is the ‘nduja campanelle, a martini, a negroni, and the bread and butter pudding. Maybe a glass of red. Almost certainly an amaro.

That bread and butter pudding with fried panettone is one of the best things in the city, I’m telling you. Nothing fancy, other than fancy panettone fried in too much butter with milk gelato from La Pop three doors down. It’s a dessert that warrants a sleep afterwards if only to dream about it. The Tirama-stu is punchy, indulgent, with a layer of salted caramel that works perfectly. It also goes brilliantly with amaro.

The small plates go from £7 to £16 for the scallops, whilst the pastas never reach mid-teens and nothing is over twenty quid. The Pinot Noir we drink is £40 and the cocktails £12 each. It’s all very affordable, put it that way. There is skill in the kitchen and out front and it’s all extremely enjoyable. Really, very, very enjoyable and I count myself incredibly fortunate that yet another brilliant restaurant is in walking distance, even if there is zero chance of me walking back. And it’s only going to get better. Go now before it becomes one of the hottest tables in the city.