*Banca Restaurant closed at the end of 2013*
Mayfair has an abundance of glamorous restaurants, where the design, ambiance and cocktail list can often take precedence. But when the kitchen produces food that makes you feel as special as the venue? Well, that’s a place worth getting in line for, as Emyr Thomas discovered at Banca Restaurant.
Banca opened in late summer 2012 to initial lukewarm reviews – while some judge restaurants in the first weeks of opening, I prefer to wait a little while to make sure you catch the restaurant firmly in full swing; a strategy that appears to have paid off with Banca, as we had a wonderful evening with some really rather good Italian cooking.
As the name indicates, the restaurant is housed within a former bank, and retains some of the original features, including the vault door in the basement private dining room.
I arrived at Banca to find my guests at the counter half way through their first bottle and a large plate of prosciutto, salami and parmigiano, while being charmed and educated by the barman.
In true Milanese style, we stood around by the bar for a while chatting, drinking and picking at the wonderful plate of Italian charcuterie.
But to the food: Sea bass carpaccio with avocado, lime and sun blush tomatoes was effervescent in both colour and taste, and, as unhealthy as it sounds to start a dinner, lightly fried courgettes and carrots were, thankfully, true to their name.
Pumpkin ravioli with butter and sage was wonderfully comforting for an autumnal evening; the linguine with lobster and cherry tomato sauce could have done with a bit more of a kick; but the char grilled dry aged T bone steak served with flavoured coarse sea salt and cannellini beans was a real revelation – who knew steaks could be this good outside a top steakhouse?
I can recall very little of the desserts (I never can – something about too much wine and the end of an evening) but can remember my dining companions enjoying the tiramisu, which means it probably had a good proportion of booze in it (always a telling sign).
Situated on the top end of North Audley Street, Banca is very much a Mayfair restaurant in name, location and style, and that is partly why I liked it.
Although many do, to complain about high prices in London’s most prestigious post code would be futile and rather tedious, but for a slice of Milan in Mayfair, depositing your savings in Banca wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
You might enjoy reading our guide to the best Italian restaurants in London.