Food & Drink Lifestyle London

DAROCO Soho

Daroco Soho, the celebrated Franco-Italian restaurant, has opened in Soho, London, following its success in Paris with two restaurants and a cocktail bar in the 2nd and 16th arrondissements. Founders Alexandre Giesbert, Julien Ross, and Nico de Soto introduce Daroco Soho, offering exceptional Italian cuisine in a contemporary trattoria setting. The menu features homemade dishes ranging from pasta to ice cream, and emphasises a communal dining experience. Read on to discover more.

Italian food made by the French for the English; that’s Daroco, in a European nutshell. Having built its reputation on two eponymous restaurants in different Parisian arrondissements, owners Alexandre Giesbert, Julien Ross, and Nico de Soto move their focus to London to a quiet pedestrian thoroughfare (formerly a street) in a West End no man’s land between Charing Cross Road and Soho’s Greek Street.

We eat early, at 6.30, on a Sunday. The menu is luxurious but straightforward. Its streamlined approach (concentrating on pizza and pasta) attracts a multi-generational crowd, literally from children to grandparents. However, the chic interior design, the abundance of mirrors, and the expensive sound system all suggest Daroco is encouraging a hipper, younger crowd and, surely enough, as the night progresses, the skirts shorten, the shirts unbutton, the space fills up with a collection of dates and mates.

We opt for an alcohol-free IPA called Hepcaf, all the way from Gypsy Hill and a house sparkling wine all the way from Champagne. We peruse the menu over Foccacia. It’s served in three chunks and, being the size of a small loaf is almost intimidating. However it bursts with character, is light and fluffy but rich and moist with brushings of olive oil in unexpected places. It has a moreish, smokey flavour from the wood-fire oven, and is pipped with black olives and miniature tomatoes. The latter, especially ripe, provides a fresh and flavourful viscosity.

Our Antipasti is equally compelling. The Vitello Tonnato is a classic dish from Piedmont; large slices of thin, slow-cooked veal with a subtle tuna sauce to dip into. It comes with dehydrated black capers which provide a hint of saltiness and a pleasing crunch. The Marango Crudo looks like the bloody red centre of a target and with this dish, Daroco hits bullseye. The thinly sliced raw beef is drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with lemon and melts in the mouth.

Daroco’s wood fire oven takes centre stage at the bar’s posterior. With its eye-catching blue butterfly mosaics and names such as ‘Ham It Up’ ‘Wacky Pumpkin’ and ‘The Parma Show’, it’s hard not to plump for pizza but that’s exactly what we do. The Tagliolini al Tartufo is comfort food at its most luxurious and generous; the entirety of the pasta is covered with thin truffle slices at times twice the size of 50p pieces. It’s a salivating and rare sight and the bountiful butter and mushroom sauce provide for a highly recommended dish.

The Pappardelle al Venison Genovese isn’t far behind and, much like the truffle pasta, doesn’t try too hard to impress, doesn’t add extraneous flavours to titillate or challenge, just presents an authentic dish, the ingredients of which coalesce to provide something rather perfect. The venison ragu is tender and flavoursome and in a different location, a rustic trattoria, a hidden Venetian backstreet, you’d expect the owner’s mamma to shuffle out of the kitchen, smile as she comes over to check everything’s to your liking.

This quaint, old-fashioned sentiment, a love of basic but hearty and ‘honest’ cooking makes Daroco such a curious but fascinating contradiction because the ethos behind its interior design is quite the opposite. Designer/architect Olivier Delannoy took inspiration from the Renaissance but the space reminds me of an Escher drawing. Incredibly high ceilings, geometric shapes both flat and three dimensional, curves, straight lines, trompe l’oeils abound; infinity somewhere, infinity everywhere.

The lighting is similarly hard to pin down; atmospheric and subtle, it seemingly comes from nowhere. A few spotlights shine from the ceiling. Large arcs curve above tables with miniature pinpricks of light. Frisbee-like ovals hang around the restaurants in various states of quarter, half and full moon. Reflections of refractions shimmer and glow left, right and centre. Unlike a clever magic trick, the impression isn’t spoilt when the secret becomes apparent; the entirety of the ceiling is mirrored as are the majority of walls. The rustic-coloured chairs, the elegant midnight blue booths, wooden panels, and green tiles all fuse to make the space unique, an enchanting and intelligent triumph.

For I Dolci, we share a tiramisu which surprises us on almost every level. Rather than being presented in a small brick-like shape, it looks more like a double burger in a bun, albeit a rather pretty one, flowing with mayonnaise. The illusion is created by sprinkled cocoa powder and, of course, cream. There’s a lot less sponge than in many a Tiramisu and, actually, a lot less coffee or alcoholic flavouring.

Rather than the traditional soggy mess of succulence, it’s more structured, more definitively textured but no less appealing. We assume this goes against the grain of the restaurant and is a contemporary twist on a classic but, upon further investigation, we’re proven wrong. Apparently, the dish was invented (or at least popularised) in a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso by the owner’s wife, Alba di Pillo, in the late 60s. Its shape? Round.

A fascinating way to end a fascinating and rewarding dining experience; Mamma Mia!

Contact Details

Website: www.daroco.com
Address: Manette St, London W1D 4AL