Occupying a striking multi-room space that gives the touchstones of 1950s design a contemporary facelift, this second venture from Clove Club maestro Isaac McHale and his ‘Young Turk’ chums is an unrelentingly style-conscious venue that looks the part with its bare tables, fabulous lighting, leather upholstery and mirrors.
Luca is also billed as a ‘Britalian’ restaurant, and the kitchen makes its mark by fusing seasonal British ingredients with the vigorous traditions of Italian cuisine: “sublime” handmade pasta is an unmissable highlight (perhaps bucatini with kale pesto, Calabrian chilli and Castelmagno cheese), but we wouldn’t ignore bigger plates such as best end of Hebridean lamb with crisp sweetbreads and spiced carrots or Cornish monkfish with Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnuts and butter.
Bookending the traditional four-course menu are moreish antipasti and cleverly crafted desserts – from whipped salted cod with mussels and peperonata or burrata with winter panzanella to freshly churned ice creams, affogato or pannetone bread-and-butter pudding with Solerno custard. We also adore the Parmesan fries that are offered as a warm-up.
Luca’s beautifully designed bar is handy for drinks, express lunches and pre-theatre, while its two private rooms are “great spaces” for a celebratory bash: readers particularly like the dedicated Pasta Room (a working space for the chefs during the day), although the Italian-style Garden Room also has a special allure all its own.
A cluster of tip-top Champagnes and a brace of Sussex sparklers add variety to the “exceptional” Italian regional wine list, while ever-attentive, exceedingly helpful staff get top marks all round.