It had been a long time since I was last at Bancone. Well, pre-pandemic. After my first visit in August 2018 (click here), it became a favourite haunt where I ate many times and took friends and family along to enjoy too. Would it be the same? Would I still rate it as one of my very favourite places to eat? And I was going with my lovely friend Lucia and when it comes to taking Italians to a restaurant specialising in pasta dishes … well there’s no hiding from the truth when it comes to deciding how good they are.
I’d booked well in advance, which was probably as well as it was packed. We sat at the bar and really that’s where you should sit for bancone is the Italian word for ‘counter’ or ‘bar’. All the time we were eating we could look up across the bar and see dishes being prepared: a tray of beetroot baked in salt straight from the oven, being carefully skinned; little mounds of meringue being piped on to a baking tray. There are a few traditional tables at the back but the fun is in sitting at the bancone and getting an insider’s view of the food preparation.
Lucia hadn’t been to Bancone before and I suggested we shared a couple of starters and chose a pasta dish each. Neither of us were drinking alcohol and while Lucia was happy to stick with water, I chose a non-alcoholic ‘cocktail’: Botivo Aperitivo – Hand-crafted with natural botanicals , topped with soda + an orange twist (£6.5).
It was very simple but delicious with a fresh, slightly bitter taste from the orange zest and satisfied my desire for something a little bit special.
One starter was Rosemary & sea salt focaccia (£4). I’d seen a large tray of fresh focaccia come to the counter before Lucia arrived and being cut up. It was delicious – so light and fluffy and very tasty, served with a bowl of extra virgin olive oil.
Our other starter was Burrata, salt baked beetroot, preserved lemon (£11).
This was wonderful. A glorious burrata, perfectly soft and runny inside and very delicious. The beetroot with it was gorgeous, as was the dressing, which we could mop up with some of the focaccia. It was a great start to the meal.
Lucia suggested we chose different pasta dishes so we could taste two! Oh I do like eating with friends like this. She chose Salt baked celeriac, rigatoni, almond, lemon (£11). It looked great when it arrived and was indeed very good with a nice fresh taste to it.
I chose Cornish cod, tagliatelle, tomato, caper, olive (£15). This looked an exciting dish too. Both dishes didn’t look particularly large when they were served because of the way they’d been laid on the plate, but once you broke into them there was really quite a good portion.
The cod dish was fabulous: a deep, slightly salty taste from the capers and olives in the rich sauce. Cod can take strong flavours well and this was excellent.
There were three tempting desserts on the menu but we both felt we’d eaten enough and ordered mint tea instead, which came in a pot and was made with fresh mint.
The bill with service came to just under £60 for the two of us. The service, as always, had been friendly and efficient. And there’s always such a great, lively atmosphere in the restaurant, which is another reason I love going there.
We said our goodbyes outside, promising to meet again soon, and then made our way to our respective train stations. I walked down to the Thames and across Hungerford Bridge to Waterloo where a fast train sped me quickly home.
It was definitely great to return to Bancone and I can’t wait to go back again!