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A new restaurant from the people behind Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo, offering low-priced Italian dishes inspired by street food.
Please note, Vico is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, June 2017.
‘Ugh! Can’t think of anything worse than eating a meal on a plastic stool that doesn’t have a back!’ This WhatsApp from a 23-year-old gal-about-town lays bare part of the challenge that Jacob Kenedy has set himself in Vico, his new fast-food restaurant (an outpost of Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo) in Cambridge Circus. The stools are indeed plastic, and backless.
Other challenges include a site next door to a Polpo, easy-to-dislike decor and an ordering system so unconventional it has to be explained to first-timers. Most food (pre-cooked) sits on the counter awaiting your choice, though there’s also raw fish and shellfish deep-fried to order and brought to your table by the waiting staff. Everything else you carry to the table yourself. It’s not all that different from a deli counter or buffet, but in a place like this, the idea takes time to get used to. And I give full credit to Mr Kenedy and Co for making numerous changes to food and setting (some in response to customer feedback) during the course of an unusually lengthy soft launch.
So: what about the food? I have been to Vico five times now, first in soft launch (which doesn’t really count) and more recently after proper opening. One part of a single dish was an out-and-out dud. The rest has ranged from good to pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming fabulous. Deep-frying is a particular strength, both in dishes cooked to order and in arancini and polpette, deep-fried balls with daily-changing fillings. Pizzas feature thick but feather-light bases. Salads are dressed with care. Look out for tiella, a filled flat pastry with fishy stuffings based on tuna or salt cod.
Another unconventional feature is that you order by weight. In some restaurants, that can lead to bill-shock – especially if you’re serving yourself and just like the look of everything. At Vico, the staff serve you – and they do not over-fill the plates (actually small steel platters, by the way). I never spent more than £12 a head, before drinks, for a lightish but deeply satisfying lunch. At dinner, with drinks from the very basic list (wines in carafe or beer), you could get yourself pretty well stuffed for £25 a head.
Would you want to do it while sitting on a plastic stool? Well, Vico is never going to win any awards for comfortable seating. But the stools are perfectly tolerable for a 30-minute lunch. And some evenings, we were informed, the place is so rammed that not only is every stool taken but some people literally vote with their feet: they eat standing up. So Jacob Kenedy’s multiple challenges may pay off, whatever the ‘ugh’ brigade thinks.
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