We’d been planning to go to the Richmond institution that is Al Boccon di Vino since my friend Jojo went there about a year ago and hadn’t stopped raving about it since. Be warned you really need to book in advance and although I usually prefer dinner over lunch, as their menu free banquet can last well over two and half hours on Jojo’s advice we opted for a Saturday lunchtime booking.
Joining us were Jojo and her other half Pete, they had the advantage of knowing a little about the running order. “Don’t ask for the wine list Tim, there isn’t one!” Jojo said. This was great insight as when the restaurant manager Simona asked us”You want Redda or Whita wine?” in her thick Italian accent, I was able to resist the temptation to ask for the wine list!
Whilst I love to spend time pondering a menu and wine list I am equally happy to just go with the flow especially on the back of some great recommendations. I love the confidence dare I say even arrogance of a restaurant that says “we’ll serve you the most amazing, seasonal fresh ingredients and wines that match but don’t expect a choice!” I think if more establishments could pull this off, dining out would be more of an adventure!
Having strolled down the river from Twickenham to Richmond before lunch we went for the white wine option and were rewarded with a crisp Lugana, a delightful floral wine with a wonderful bouquet.
The Lugana proved to be the perfect accompaniment to our never ending run of starters.
First up. English asparagus with parmesan shavings, rocket and pomegranate. Deliciously simple and a great seasonal starter to kick off the proceedings.
This was augmented by the classic pairing of Charentais melon, with its wonderful bouquet and sweet tasting flesh, which worked brilliantly with the slightly salty air dried prosciutto.
We were by no means done with the rolling starters, the next duo was a delightful vegetarian course one of sliced artichokes in olive oil with herbs and garlic and the other a mixture of grilled courgettes, aubergine and peppers with plenty of freshly baked italian bread to capture all that nectar like dressing.
The next offering was a juicy seafood combo of giant garlic prawns and razor clams in their shell served in a rich garlic and herb sauce, perfectly cooked so that the seafood retained its texture without the rubbery consistency that comes with over cooking these delicate morsels.
We were still a course away from the mains and the wine was flowing well, Pete and I were already exhibiting a healthy glow….
Finishing off the last of the Lugana as the pasta course arrived we ordered red to come with the meat pasta dish, a delicious Sangiovese I recall but to be honest I was starting to feel a little squiffy at this point.
As the pasta course was cleared away, a fanfare from the kitchen heralded the entry of a ceremonial cortege of waiting staff carrying a vast roasting tin with a whole suckling pig inside, its crackling sparkling.
Riccardo (left of photo) is every inch the Italian stallion, proudly showcasing the wonderful fare on offer, its’ no surprise that he is both chef and owner and never seems happier than being front of house exuding Italian charisma and charm that the likes of George Clooney can only dream of!The Suckling pig was a triumph although I was starting to feel just a little full. The crackling was crisp but the meat juicy, succulent and flavoursome, served with a simple pomme purée.
Our finale came in the form of a simple strawberry compote with pannacotta and served with a deliciously rich Moscato di Trani from Puglia. One of the oldest DOC in Italy, exhibiting a wonderful nose of buttery honey and yellow fruit jam; a taste that had real depth with a rich flavour perfect with the fruit compote.
With the wines costing approx £25 and the the meal fixed at £45 you know where you are budget wise here but do be prepared to be blown away by the quality of the food!
One nice surprise at the end was that with my half century birthday just 2 weeks away our generous friends Jojo and Pete treated us to lunch! We really did feel quite spoilt!