If you’ve visited the surrounding areas of Smithfield Market, you’ll know this historic area of London is home to alley-style streets with quaint shops and restaurants. One of these roads is the tiny Cloth Fair and on it resides vegetarian restaurant Amico Bio. With its traditional wooden floors and furniture looking out on views of St. Bartholomew the Great Church it’s hard not to fall for the charm of this rustic Italian eatery.
Having trained with top chefs Don Alfonso, Gary Rhodes, Bruno Loubet and Giorgio Locatelli Amico Bio’s head chef and proprietor Pasquale Amico has generated quite a following in London. Pasquale was head chef at Giorgio Locatelli’s Refettorio and Locanda locatelli restaurants, and then moved on to open Via Condotti – London, which won a Michelin Bib Gourmand before finally creating the successful Amico Bio concept. Pasquale is Italian born and the restaurant is family-owned by him and two cousins. The food and wine served in Amico Bio are both sourced directly from the family-owned farm back in Capua, Italy which also feeds into the sister restaurant in Naples.
My colleague and I take prime seats by the window and distract ourselves from the rain splattered streets of London by perusing the mouth-watering Italian menu and dreaming of sunnier climes. As produce arrives fresh each morning the menu changes daily, and we leisurely digest the options whilst salivating over each incredible organic, vegetarian dish. We settled on the cestino di pane assortito for our “stuzzichini” (something to share) – a lovely selection of homemade breads along with a bottle of crisp and elegant Pinot Grigio. A platter of breads and breadsticks arrive with flavours varying from garlic to oregano and spinach to focaccia.
We order the signature Amico Bio salad to share. This option plays out well as the dish is served platter style with a selection of vegetable sides for you to build-your-own. I help myself to a mountain of salad with bursts of flavour coming from rich roasted peppers, smooth courgettes, soft and silky tofu, crunchy fennel and artichokes, earthy aubergines, bulgar wheat and a tangy tomato salsa. You can taste the quality of each ingredient with every bite.
Take me to an Italian restaurant and I generally lean towards primi over secondi – my love for pasta is too great. This meal was no exception. Whilst I toyed with main course options, (namely the kohlrabi, mushroom and potato timbale with borlotti beans and rocket salad – yum!) the call of tagliatelle with black summer truffle was too strong. I think I made the right decision. The tagliatelle was gluten free, but this did not hinder the texture or taste; it was served al dente and still had the denseness and bite you expect in a tagliatelle. Lashings of black truffle and indulgent shavings of Gran Kinara cheese amplified the flavours and made this bona fide dish suitable for even the strictest of vegetarians.
My colleague went down the traditional route and opted for secondi as their main choosing a dish of braised artichoke served with crispy and creamy polenta shards, and fresh broad beans and Tuscan beans. The artichokes reminded my colleague of holidays in Southern France where she would buy artichokes fresh from the local market.
We order the chocolate gluten-free cake, served with a vanilla sauce. It arrives along with two other surprises! An almond cake with wild berry sorbet and a banana cake served a strawberry and vanilla sauce. All vegan and all EXTREMELY delicious. For me the piece de resistance came in the form of Tiramisu. An oldie but a goodie, this version had the consistency of clotted cream, with undertones of sharp coffee striking through the rich creaminess. Whilst this was definitely not gluten free, it was certainly heavenly.