64. Luca

Clerkenwell, London

Italian food and drink in a convivial setting are the hallmarks of this Clerkenwell dining room

£££££

It’s an Italian restaurant, Jim, but not as we know it. Luca is a polished affair despite being a large and perpetually heaving place. The kitchen gives high quality British produce the Italian treatment to create dishes that would probably have purists up in arms – agnolotti is stuffed with a sauce inspired by the Roman classic cacio e pepe, for example – but the results speak for themselves.

The true strength of Luca lies in the kitchen’s ability to rethink classical Italian dishes to produce high impact, punchy plates. The pasta is an especially good example of this. Tortelli alla cacciatora is inspired by the rustic hunter’s stew of the same name and served with smoked ricotta, summer vegetables and san marzano tomatoes; while simple rigatoni with pork ragu is enlivened with anchovy and mint.

Other top pics include roast Orkney scallops with jerusalem artichoke and n’duja; and Scottish halibut with sweetcorn, tarragon, girolles and white balsamic vinegar. The a la carte menu is arranged in the traditional Italian manner, but guests can also opt for a prix fixe experience which sees the kitchen choose their antipasti, primi, secondi and dolce courses.

A small frontage opens out into a substantial, spacious restaurant arranged across multiple rooms that blends traditional and modern design elements with the dining room overseen by front of house maestro and The Clove Club co-founder Johnny Smith. Add in a killer wine list that’s packed with some the biggest names in Italian wines – there are seven different vintages of Edoardo Valentini’s iconic Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, for example – and you have a very compelling package indeed.

88 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4EH

0203 8593000

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