New Michelin starred restaurant for the UK 2023 Guide serving value Italian options in the Barbican area of London
Luca is the brain child of Isaac McHale, head chef of 2 Michelin starred Clove Club in Shoreditch and one of the latest recipients of a Michelin star in the 2023 Guide for the UK. No surprises that head chef of Luca Robert Chambers previously worked at the Clove Club as well as some heavyweight establishments such as The Square under Phil Howard, L’Enclume and The Ledbury. This new Italian restaurant provides some very satisfying dishes, the excellent set menu of which I tried at the bar for £30 (for three courses). Based on the return this is a fantastic option, this was a strong advert to come back for a more lavish meal and enjoy the full a la carte another time. Based on this visit, it is actually in danger of becoming a new favourite of mine already.
Unlike many starred restaurants where the bread is included, here the sour dough from Dusty Knuckle was priced as an extra but good nevertheless and served with olive oil. Parmesan fries were more waffle in texture with soft cheese running all the way through and whilst these are termed as a snack on the menu, you could seriously have this as a starter such is the generous portion size, Basically, if you have this, I don’t think you will need to have a starter, but that is just a friendly heads up.
My starter of mezzi pacchieri with marinda tomatoes, olives, capers and ricotta salata was deep in tomato flavour, heightened by the olive which thankfully did not make it too ‘olivey’. I also enjoyed the crispy herbs on top. My guest went straight for a main which was the fillet of lamb with jersey royals, wild garlic and salsa verde and this was reported as extremely good – it certainly seemed to have a generous portion size of lamb on for the set menu price. My main of Scottish halibut, celeriac, slow roasted garlic and smoked eel was a fresh and cooked well albeit, halibut not actually being my absolute favourite (on account of being strangely dry in its flakiness somehow). The supporting jus however was extremely good and the dish as a whole was very good.
Both desserts were tried. Tiramisù clearly had to be tried as an Italian classic and held a good mascarpone but perhaps a little too much cream in comparison to the former and soaked biscuit. I had more food envy over my guest’s pannacotta with mini doughnuts (yoghurt and vanilla pannacotta, yorkshire rhubarb and beignet), so much so that I am actually looking forward to trying this next time I am in.
Although the opening bar area is quite snug, the service all round was attentive and seemed happy in the main which is a nice change from venues that feel overstretched or under strain – it’s a pleasure to be in the hands of those that are in calm, control as always. The fact that Luca is literally a 3-4 minute walk at the most from the Elizabeth Line (Farringdon) station, with its very reasonable menu and the atmospheric buzz that seemed to be in full swing on this visit, means that whilst it is not the highest scoring option on my list, it is the another perfect example of how best is different from favourite, which, for all the reasons above, is where this restaurant could be headed for me.
Food Grade: 73%