2.12.10 Bucolic Dining
Bond Street is no longer the tucked-away, cobblestoned street of artists' studios it once was. The arrival of Herzog & de Meuron’s overwrought luxury residences and a slew of expensive boutiques signaled a definitive transformation. But it still retains its charm, in no small part because of Il Buco. What began in 1994 as a little antiques shop is now this wonderful Italian restaurant where candelight bounces off rows of hanging copper pots, illuminating dark paintings and the smiles of sated guests. Rustic wooden tables and cozy banquettes make for leisurely dining. The place attracts a nice crowd of locals and regulars that creates a buzzy but not pretentious scene. The eclectic menu is Italian-inflected, with a nod to Spain’s tapas-style grazing. I have found the food to be uniformly delicious. And although it’s hard to make the meal the main focus when you’re surrounded by a gorgeous gaggle of old friends who rarely come together now—sharing stories and secrets and laughs at full volume—it’s also impossible not to stop and savor Il Buco’s inventive flavors. I always look forward to the bread—chewy, yeasty and crusty. Its peerless accompaniments of peppery Umbrian olive oil, Sicilian sea salt and balsamic vinegar from Modena are from Il Buco’s own brand and are available for sale in the restaurant and here.
The menu reflects the seasons and the availability of local produce, so it changes quite frequently, but some recent highlights include creamy cauliflower and gorgonzola croquettes with a crackling exterior; assorted house-cured salumi; the now-classic black kale "Caesar" salad; thin slices of grapefruit with marcona almonds and shavings of mojama, Spain's dried, salted tuna; grilled swordfish with sheep's milk yoghurt and Meyer lemon; maltagliati (fresh pasta sheets) with mushrooms, mint and parmesan; the most intense coconut-lime sorbet (which I will be trying to recreate shortly); divine salted caramel gelato; and an unforgettably rich and creamy panna cotta, drizzled with the house balsamico.