Bank on Bancone for great fresh pasta
Pull up a seat at the 15-metre counter and watch the chefs at this magical new venue near Trafalgar Square
17 January, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Bancone – a swish, and very reasonable, pasta restaurant. Photo: Jade Nina Sarkhel
THERE’S something quite magical about Bancone, a new pasta place near Trafalgar Square.
First is the location. Walk down William IV Street and the venue is tucked away behind one small window. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Second are the prices. This is a swish eatery in the heart of London where a plate of fabulous fresh pasta can cost less than £10.
When I eat out, I always perch near any open-plan kitchen to observe the chefs at work. At Bancone, it’s almost obligatory. The room is narrow but very deep, with a 15-metre white marble counter stretching alongside the bar and kitchen on the left. This counter is the anchor of the overall design. “Bancone” translates as “bar” or “counter” in Italian.
The rest of the room feels chic and modern, with a colour palette of whites, olive greens and natural stone.
It was a pleasure watching the chefs in action: stretching focaccia dough; toasting pine nuts; moulding arancini; or tossing buttery pasta dishes in cast iron pans.
This theatrical atmosphere is highly apt, in fact, given Bancone’s location behind Covent Garden.
Starters or antipasti hover around the £5-£8 mark. Order the grissini bread sticks, with tips wrapped in silky slivers of lardo.
Or a salad of burrata, charred radicchio, sticky aged balsamic and a scattering of puffed wild rice for extra crunch.
For the main event, the menu follows the season with around a dozen different pasta dishes.
I’ve tried the cacio e pepe – a classic Roman recipe, where handfuls of grated pecorino and a whack of black pepper melt into an oozy emulsion of joy. On a second visit, I wolfed down a rustic dish of tiny pasta tubes called ditalini jumbled with lentils, beans and tomato and a flurry of toasted breadcrumbs.
You’re guaranteed to find a dish that thrills. Perhaps a wild hare ragu with the subtle, bitter notes of cacao; or a fishy number with brown shrimps and seaweed butter.
Sign off with a tarragon panna cotta with poppy seeds and hint of lemon; or neon-pink poached rhubarb with custard and pistachio.
Bancone is an excellent restaurant that’s handy to have up your sleeve – especially if you’re out in the West End without a reservation. (They hold tables back to cater for walk-in trade).
There are some larger tables; but this place excels for parties of one or two who want to eat well but want to linger.
Wine buffs should pre-load at Terroirs opposite, one of London’s best natural wine bars with a penchant for offbeat French vintages.
On my way home, I got the giggles reading customers’ online reviews of Bancone. While praising the “truly outstanding pasta” one raved about the trendy Byredo hand soap in the loos: “I’ve been on the bus for 45 mins sniffing my own hands every 30 secs cos they smell so good”.
39 William IV Street, WC2N
020 7240 8786