Monday, 23 June 2014

Enoteca da Luca St Paul's: where large plates seem tiny

So I had post-work dinner at Enoteca da Luca with C & P last week. I (thought I) was first to arrive so I parked my butt by the bar and ordered some scotch to kill time. I've just been served my drink when C rang to say she's by the dining area. It didn't take long until I realised I was at the one in Guildhall, and not the one on Watling Street (there's three of them in the city). Had to down my drink quickly before I staggered to where she was. It was only a 7-minute walk but I do hate being late!
The restaurant's mantra is 'piccolo e bello' which translates to 'small is beautiful'. Being a relatively petite person with massive belly capacity, this was quite intriguing. I enjoy the concept of sharing plates/tapas as punters get the chance to try more dishes but I do prefer the feeling of having had a proper meal instead of feeling like I've only just grazed.
The St Paul's restaurant is tiny; the ground floor covers about 25 at most and the basement covers an intimate party of 10. I like the look of it: rough wooden countertops lined with oils and vinegar on one side and a semi-industrial bar space on the other.
The tables are quite close which makes it conducive for intimate conversations and cheeky tete-a-tetes. (The ladies next to us were overheard complaining about how close we were sat next to them.) 
The wine list is extensive, with over 100 bottles to choose from. Most of them are Italian but there are a few good ones from elsewhere.
We ordered the antipasto misto (£14) platter to start. It had cured meats such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto and a few pieces of foccacia on the base. The quality was good - the meat fresh and the bread crisp. Good enough for two people to share, three's quite a stretch.
We saw some sort of homemade pasta with crab (£14) on the menu so we went for that. I was pleasantly surprised to see a smear of aligue (crab fat) on the side of the plate. It's the first time I've seen aligue served in any restaurant in town so I wondered if they made their own or if they had jars of it imported from Italy/Asia.
The dish itself was good. The noodles were freshly made and cooked al dente. Strips of courgette and red bell pepper added some texture. There wasn't much crab meat, but there was enough crab flavour in the sauce. The only let-down was the size. This was already a large portion and it still came out tapas style. I suppose I expected 'large' to be Italian-style large (ie good for 2 people), but I can easily finish this on my own and have room for another plate. And dessert.
We ordered the chargrilled rib-eye (£16.75) which beautifully came in medium (as requested - I was trumped 2/3). I thought it said 10oz on the menu but it seemed less than that. Perhaps I was imagining things... but usually I don't agree sharing a steak unless I know how much of it is served per cut. Plus, I remember P & I discussing how we can easily devour 10 ounces of beef on our own on a hungry day. Nevermind.
Admittedly, it was really succulent and juicy. The meat was still tender and was generously seasoned. I enjoyed it a lot and could have easily finished the whole lot. With the crab pasta to start. 
Flavour-wise the 'triple cooked' chips were deliciously seasoned. I wished it was a bit more crisp on the outside, though. And I wish there was a bit more of it!
Dessert came in the form of a flourless chocolate brownie (£6.75). It looked amazingly rich when it came at our table.
Which, I suppose, is why I was disappointed with the subtlety of cocoa flavour. The foam of cream was a bit lacklustre too.

Overall, I think Enoteca da Luca St. Paul's is a nice place to catch up with mates over wine and a few nibbles if you're not too fussed about eating. It's super close to One New Change as well, so if you fancied something a bit more intimate then this could be an option. Service is pretty quick and the ambience is pretty decent. Expect a few more calories consumed in vino rather than food though. (They do have a relatively wider menu in Devonshire Square.)

Enoteca Da Luca St Paul's
21 Watling Street, London, EC4M  | +44 (0)20 7332 0102
Ave spend pp: £45 with wine
Square Meal