It’s a universal truth: carbs are crowd-pleasers, so hiding behind pizza and pasta is easy if you’re an Italian restaurant looking to quickly win favour. But what of the restaurants proudly championing less obvious dishes? Enter, Luca. Little sister to two Michelin starred The Clove Club and a strikingly stylish Clerkenwell haunt that gives the touchstones of 1950s design a contemporary facelift via bare tables, iconic lighting styles and buttery leather upholstery.
Its reputation proceeds it, so it’ll be nothing new to anyone with a sense of London’s food scene that Luca is destination dining at its best. From start to finish it’s a seamless, sublime experience that starts with the chipper staff and ends – if you’re doing it right – with perfectly frothed, subtly sweetened, espresso martinis.
We’d suggest the chef’s menu which hands over all decision-making to the experts. Plates dip and dive through the seasons’ brightest produce. There are impossibly light Parmesan fries with crisp cases and airy interiors; roasted scallops seasoned with nduja, sitting in a puddle of sweet artichoke puree; and the most exquisitely prepared steak tartare peppered with capers, celery, pickled onions, and the crunch of homemade crisps. The star of the show though was a perfectly cooked, soft cannon of Hebridean lamb dressed with the anchovy hum of bagna cauda and savoury green olives.
Before you grieve the loss of pasta altogether, let us swiftly reassure you with the in-house pasta room where various shapes are expertly crafted each day. A wonderful potato filled cappelletti that doubled down on the carbs was exactly the type of cosy, cosseting sort of dish that you crave when you need a little lift.
A far cry from the heavy and hearty Italian fare you might expect, Luca has a lightness of touch running through every course. The nuanced, clever dishes mark it out as a real contender in the top echelons of the capital’s occasion dining scene, yet the reassuringly down-to-earth staff and easy atmosphere make it feel like somewhere you’d happily eat every day given half the chance.