1 Cambridge Circus, London, WC2H 8PA eatvico.com
It got a bit of a pasting when it started, but Lucy finds Vico has pulled its socks up and come back a winner.
I’m not sure what I expected from Vico, Jacob Kenedy’s casual Italian on Cambridge Circus, but ending the night downing endless glasses of rosÃƒÂ© with the restaurant’s enigmatic marketing manager wasn’t one of them.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. There was plenty of pre-opening hypedue to co-owner Kenedy’s many London fans (I’ve never come across a person who doesn’t adore Boca di Lupo), centre-of-everything-location and the usual 50% soft launch offer.
Then it opened in August 2015, and people seemed a bit confusedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ There were whisperings of uncomfortable stools, standing up and bamboozling ordering systems. A friend went and told me it was lacking in atmosphere. Then another said the food was disappointing. Perhaps we were all just too British/lazy to get Kenedy’s no cutlery concept, but I’ll admit I went from’must book immediately’ to’probably not going to bother’.
Three cheers for the clever Vico team then. Who did what all great restaurants do, and used that feedback to evolve. The plastic stools were replaced with proper cushioned leather, the concept of standing was dropped and ordering system reformed into the usual’at the table’ service we Londoners know and love.
Whatever they did, it worked. When I finally visited in March 2016, it was packed to the gills. Charming, wine-offering staff aside, it felt instantly welcoming. Servers was sharp and cheerful, the interior lighting kept at a sexy low, the Lapis-like terrazzo fountain bubbling away in perfect unison with the buzz of conversation.
The menu is crafted in’The Appian Way’ (the Roman road that linked Rome to Brindisi for thousands of years) meaning it trails the central-southern Italian regions. It follows the usual’antipasti”primi’ secondi’ route with sharing plates and pizza to add extra agony to dining decisions. Luckily, as we were pondering over perfect Negroni’s, manager Matt Braybon popped by to say hello and within minutes he’d expertly ordered our food and wine for the evening.
At his recommendation, we kicked things off with a favourite of mine, Fritto Misto Di Mare. Whilst you really can’t beat eating this dish on a beach, somewhere on the Italian coast, preferably in summer – the addition of crisp sage and bitter leaves, plus the recommendation to bite the prawn heads whole for flavour, made for an excellent example. We also shared a silky burrata with blanched leaves of bitter agretti and impossible-to-resist squares of deep-fried lasagne.
Main courses matched the frigid temperatures outside, a winter-fighting dish of lentil braised with Italian sausage and a steaming pile of freshly made orecchiette. Though the lentils, a mostly brown arrangement of ingredients, wouldn’t win any best-looking contests, I’d happily hug a bowl of it any time. Along with those tiny ears of pasta scooped up a fine tomato sauce spotted with red prawns, crunchy almonds, salty pecorino and sweet basil.
If Vico needed another calling card, award-winning gelato for dessert from Gelupo would be it. Whatever you do, which either involves eating a bit less so you can fit it in, or drinking enough post-dinner vino that you’re hungry on departure to demand a take-out scoop, don’t miss it.
I can’t promise your Vico experience will end the same way mine did (blurry) but I can guarantee it’ll be immensely enjoyable. After a few rejigs, Kenedy and co have come up with a timeless restaurant that will be serving delicious food, fine gelato and good times for many years to come. And with any luck, a never ending flow of rosÃƒÂ©Ã¢â‚¬Â¦