What is it? British seasonal ingredients through an Italian lens.
Where is it? A mile or so from its older sibling The Clove Club, Luca is located on St. John Street in London's Clerkenwell, where its neighbours include the legendary St. John, a regular on the 50 Best list since 2003.
Who runs it? This is the second permanent venture by chef Isaac McHale and his business partners Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis. Childhood friends Willis and Smith met McHale through fellow chef James Lowe of Lyle’s and went on to run a supper club in London’s Shoreditch before opening The Clove Club in 2013. Smith has moved over to Luca full-time, running the restaurant with General Manager Jennifer Brown and Head Chef Robert Chambers, while Willis and McHale continue to oversee The Clove Club.
How to book: Like The Clove Club, reservations for Luca should be made through the TockTix booking system but the good news is you don’t have to pay in advance. The restaurant also keeps a few spaces for walk-ins, though if The Clove Club’s success is anything to go by, we predict there’ll be a wait.
Where to sit: There are three separate areas – the restaurant, with an à la carte menu serving antipasti, pasta and mains; a casual bar area serving salad, sandwiches, small plates and aperitivos; and two private areas – the Pasta Room and the Garden Room. For a casual afternoon or evening, grab a cosy diner-style booth in the bar area; for a proper meal, sit in the beautiful indoor garden – which will be open to the sky in summer – and take in the original features of the Grade II listed building over a long lunch or dinner.
The Pasta Room
Did you know? The three different parts of the restaurant were designed in three separate centuries: the bar area was built in 1830, the restaurant area in 1900 and the garden area at the back in 2005.
What to drink: Start with a gin cocktail to accompany your antipasti and move on to a range of Italian wines with your pasta course and main. You’ll also find a decent selection of vermouths, amaros and homemade limoncello and nocino.
And to eat: Everything on the menu is executed to the high standards you’d expect from McHale, but if you really can’t choose, try these:
Warm salad of autumn vegetables
From the appetisers: Olives and salted gooseberries with freshly baked sourdough and olive oil.
From the antipasti: Sea robin crudo – that’s raw gurnard fish, thinly sliced with a sweet and lightly spicy mix of clementine, marjoram and capezzanna olive oil.
From the pasta section: The cannelloni of calves’ head ragu with melt-in-your-mouth creamy béchamel sauce, marjoram and parmesan.
From the mains: Hereford beef stuffed with pancetta, salsify, mushrooms and kale juice and – if you’re sharing – the warm salad of autumn vegetables, goats’ curd and Wiltshire truffle.
88 St. John Street
London, EC1M 4EH
+44 (0)20 3859 3000