Bancone is Italian for counter – a fact which, admittedly, is going to be of limited use to you next time you’re in Rome, but is going to be very handy next time you find yourself in Central London.
Ever since food critic Grace Dent christened the place “casually orgasmic”, Covent Garden’s Bancone has enjoyed the kinds of queues Supreme can only dream of. Now it’s got a shiny Michelin Bib Gourmand to call its own, and a second, bigger branch in Soho’s Golden Square. Why?
London’s unslakable appetite for authentic, fresh Italian pasta shows no sign of abating, and the city’s now awash with places dutifully rolling out their dough each morning, just like nonna used to make. So what is Bancone doing differently? Well, nothing really. It’s just really, really good.
The thin sleeve of a space – fitted out with enough industrial elements to feel like a laboratory exclusively devoted to churning out some of the city’s best pasta – is just off Trafalgar Square. It’s the perfect go-to when you’ve spent an hour ambling round The National Gallery, been mooching around Covent Garden, or have recently discovered your train home from Charing Cross has been cancelled. Along the gangway there are booths and tables for two with high stools – highly serviceable for a catch-up with a friend, or casual date territory – but the primo seats are up at the bancone itself, overlooking the team of chefs sloshing doughy fronds into bubbling pans, before dousing them liberally with several kinds of butter.
Yes, this is pasta country, and you’re looking at a menu of dishes to share: dishes like the chilli-spiked lobster and confit tomato bucatini; crinkly mafalde ribbons in a roiling sea of goat’s cheese and spinach; and the famous ‘silk handkerchiefs’ – delicate, slippery sheets of pasta touting the perfect surface area:volume ratio to ferry inordinate amounts of walnut butter to your lips. Delicious. Non-pasta menu items include tomato-laden focaccia, praline cannoli with crystallised hazelnuts, and £4.50 glasses of house wine.
Which brings us to the other reason it’s so good.
With dishes hovering around the £10 mark, eating (and indeed drinking) at Bancone won’t break the bank – which is rare for a restaurant in such a plum part of town that could be mercilessly raking in tourists and day-trippers here to see a show. This is a central London restaurant just hidden enough, and cheap enough, to be for Londoners.
Go, and take your most trustworthy friend.
NOTE: Bancone is open from Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. You can find out more and – hooray! – make a reservation HERE.
Bancone | 39 William IV Street, Covent Garden, WC2N 4DD
Main image: Jade Nina Sarkhel
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