Luca

Restaurants, Fusion Farringdon
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An upmarket Italian restaurant in Clerkenwell.

Luca, a new Clerkenwell Italian from the bods behind the Clove Club, is a classy joint. I dread to think how much they spent on it. From the airy and marble-clad bar section, to the lofty dining room, with deco-rustic fittings and billowy drapes, and the faded-palazzo loos, all burnished mirrors and taupe plaster, it’s a handsome spot.

This warmth extends to the menu: trad-rustic and occasionally finicky, this is upscale country comfort food – resolutely non-punchy by delicious nonetheless. First up, parmesan fries: gossamer-light and greaseless fingers of cheese, destined to become a Luca trademark. Starters proper were similarly delicate. Turnip tops, samphire, smoked cod’s roe and sweet butter was a verdant puck of a dish, all rockpools and sea air, the roe powdered and dusted across the plate. A devilled Cornish spider crab bruschetta was deconstructed, the critter baked with cream and breadcrumbs, perfect for splodging on toasted sourdough and trickling with green, grassy oil.

A bowl of light pheasant and mushroom agnolotti came served in broth, the tiny parcels of pasta containing a mildly gamey filling overshadowed by the lip-smacking, tea-like liquid – the kind of thing convalescing princes might have been fed in olden days.

Rump of Herefordshire beef stuffed with pancetta was a salty smack to the chops after all the dainty morsels, the meat slicing like butter, spotted with dribbles of kale juice and a slab of salsify gratin giving a bit of welcome crunch. Exemplary stuff, though not something I haven’t had a hundred times before (and inevitably will again). For dessert, a bowl of baked chocolate orange mousse was cripplingly rich but nicely offset with malt-heavy barley ice cream.

Luca isn’t a spot to come on a budget, but if you’re sans expense account the bar is set up for more casual sandwiches, salads and aperitivo (as well as a menu of small plates for dinner). Nonna might baulk, but for slick cooking in design-mag surroundings, Luca ticks all the boxes.

By: Tom Howells

Posted:

Venue name: Luca
Contact:
Address: 88 St John St
London
EC1M 4EH
Transport: Tube: Farringdon
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £130.
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Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

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LiveReviews|5
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tastemaker

The new pre-theatre bar menu makes this Clerkenwell gem so much more accessible, and I could't be happier. £17 for two course or £21 for three before 6.30 is a huge reduction and a real treat for a reduced price.


I took a friend her for her birthday and really enjoyed the modern Italian plates. The absolute highlights were the pork belly with chicory and one of the best lemon tarts I've had in England. Thin pastry and a caramelised crisp top served with an interesting black pepper ice-cream ensured a memorable pudding. A disappointingly flavourless radicchio salad and the slightly frosty reception from the host staff were the only downsides. 

Really extensive wine list featuring mainly Italian wines, if a touch pricey, there is nothing on there below £35. 


Nevertheless I would definitely go back for the pre-theatre again as they change this menu regularly 

tastemaker

Two friends and I went here for the first time and loved it. We were lucky to have been given the table in the corner by the big windows and benefited from enjoying the restaurant from daylight until it the sun set throughout our dinner. Next time I go, I'd definitely try to ask for that same table again. On to the real stuff…


The parmesan fries were the perfect nibbles to start with – fluffy but crunchy on the outside it was like biting into a fluff of cheesy clouds. NOM.


We shared 3 starter plates, 3 pasta dishes and 1 main, together with a bottle of wine.


The starters we had were the Burrata, the Sea Bream crudo and the tomato salad – they made a great combo to start. If you were getting your own starter, I’d go with the burrata, you can’t really go wrong with that.


Onto the pastas, the pistachio pesto mafaldine was my favourite. I’m a huge fan of pesto but this was quite extraordinary – you could definitely tell it's distinctive from the usual basil pesto you get on / from the high street. The linguine with clams went like a match made in heaven with the white wine we had ordered. The truffle agnolotti was delicious but rich – I’d recommend that dish only to share; it would have been a bit much to have on your own, even if just in the starter portion. I told you… it’s rich and intense (but still divine)!


The chicken was super tender but apart from that I’d say nothing special. It seemed like the pastas were the real deal here.


For dessert, I had the white peach and pistachio tart but as soon as my friends’ baked chocolate mousse landed on our table, my food envy kicked in. The tart was good but definitely not as special or impressive as the mousse (which comes with roast barley ice cream).


All in all, a great night – I could have sat here all night chatting away with my friends until the restaurant closed but unfortunately had to give the table away. The food is almost faultless – especially the pastas and I highly recommend sharing plates so you get to try more! 

Tastemaker

Looking quite inconspicuous from the outside, once you get guided through the space, Luca is breath taking. The back room lets in the perfect amount of natural light and the tables curve around the natural space giving you privacy but also allowing you to get the waiters' attention easily. 


If you go, be prepared to look at the menu without glancing at the slightly pricey price-tags. Your experience will be well worth the cost. 


Having had the scallops, some amazing wine, and the linguini with clams I was impressed with every part of the meal. The only flaw in the whole experience was that the waiters did not serve the females at the table first, but rather served us randomly, making their classy service slightly less impressive. 


Supposedly Luca also serves amazing Italian style tapas at the front of the restaurant, making the delicious experience slightly more budget friendly.

tastemaker

I went to Luca with high expectations as I had read so much about it. And it did not dissapoint. I loved the venue and the food, especially the pasta dishes. We had some appetisers and then a starter and pasta dish each and we felt quite full in the end. I am going back in a few weeks with a group of friends.

Tastemaker

The portions are small, and customers are encouraged to have multiple courses. So the prices can climb quickly. However, the staff are kind and helpful, and the setting is pleasant. It may be better for a drink and a dessert than a satisfying meal.