When you start to look, it’s amazing how many hidden gems you can uncover in central London. Joining the ranks, just off the chaos of Covent Garden, is La Goccia, with its heated secret garden and glass walled restaurant. It’s a Petersham Nurseries offering and has that same allotment-grown-ingredients vibe as its neighbour next door.
The menu takes the shape of Italian sharing plates, dishes which appear as and when they’re ready and span an impressive range starting with snacks and moving through small plates, pasta, grills and sides. Most of the produce is organic, and the slow-food movement is evidenced through the seasonality of the things on offer.
Little picky plates like crisp pear with chunks of salty Manchego prove you can have your cake and eat it (or in this case get one of your five a day disguised as cheese). Puffed up, golden doughballs come with sweet Gorgonzola and a tangle of buttery prosciutto. Meanwhile, a surprising standout comes looking demure – a beige plate of baby squid – but it’s perfect, crispy and served with a punchy aioli that near-transports you to an Italian seaside trattoria.
Heartier plates come from the wood fired oven and we couldn’t resist the chicken – it’s a classic for a reason. Forget the shaved slices of roast chicken your gran used to serve, here it’s cleaved up into thick, juicy pieces with crispy skin and plenty of roasting liquor to mop your forkful round. On the side a plate of cavolo nero and borlotti beans have all melted into one another to create a thick, creamy side that carefully balances feeling nourishing with feeling luxurious. It’s the kind of cookery that takes real skill.
Sometimes we feel as though we’ve become near-immune to claims of ingredient-led menus. Here, however, the produce is so fresh that the resulting food reminds you of the true meaning of the phrase.