Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Restaurant Review: Banca

There’s something incredibly old school about Banca. Not that it’s been around for that long at all. Conceived of by the super-team behind Zuma, Roka and Aurelia, it opened late last year taking the place of a former Natwest bank just off Oxford Street.
It’s a lavish space with milky white walls, boudoir-style bonquette seating and low-hanging, gold-lit light fittings. A shiny silver bar spans one whole side while glass allows a view onto the comings-and-goings of Mayfair out front. It’s sleek, swish and even a bit sexy, but in a climate where we’re used to seeing big new openings opt for reclaimed woods, bare lightbulbs and edgy exposed brickwork rather than brash exuberant glamour, there’s some acclimatising to be done.
As a general rule, there are few better places to acclimatise than at a bar, and Banca’s is a particularly comfortable one. Grabbing hold of and running with the trend for aperitivo which has been slowly developing around town - including at both Tempo and Sartoria within minutes of here - Banca has taken the king of the genre, the Negroni and created it a menu of its very own. There are four classic varieties and then another six newly made. A fantastically passionate bar man who can only properly be described as the Cocktail Don describes them in a way I never could, but they effectively offer varying levels of bitterness and robustness. The deepest has added bitters and blood orange, the lightest gains lift from a generous spritz of prosecco.
As we’re ushered to our table in neatly choreographed moves, the service remains ergonomically efficient, though we miss the Don’s passion. A fritto misto fried fish assortment is plentiful, studded with succulent prawns and soft calamari. A cured meat platter is again large, of distinctively good quality and somewhat ingeniously served with pickled vegetables that work to cut through the meat’s fat and salt.
Simply cooked gnocchi dressed with sage butter is a rustic triumph served in surroundings that are anything but; the gnocchi almost melt in the mouth, incomparable to supermarket versions that are best used for playing ping pong. A risotto topped with foie gras and lightly cooked blueberries turns out to be a very well executed form of overkill, but you could probably guess that. A perfectly cooked rare beef fillet boasts more substance; it’s a deep ruby colour, has a flavour to match and is served with an earthy yet sweet wild mushroom assortment.
A first class tiramisu made with large quantities of coffee and quite correctly unable to stand upright, and a sharp, quivery lemon tart with buttery pastry each prove that puddings are no problem for Banca. But before you get too excited about paying a visit, just think about what this sentence involves. That visit will involve paying in excess of £120 for two. Do it and you’ll be in for a treat, but just make sure that a glitzy old school Italian is what you’re after, and preferably that it’s a day the Don is working.

30 North Audley Street, W1K 6ZG
Tube: Bond Street
Price: ££££
Written by Ben Norum

Originally published in Scout London magazine

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