Tuesday, 25 June 2013

REVIEW: Francesca Cucina
215 Baker Street, London, NW1 6XE
(Corner Melcombe Street, one block south of Clarence Gate, Regent's Park)

Apologies to non-UK readers, for whom this review may nonetheless resonate.

Rapha, the cycle clothing gurus of North London, San Francisco and Osaka, has for a couple of years now gathered a group of cyclists loosely calling themselves the Regent's Park Cycling Club - they meet at 08.30 on Fridays at Gloucester Gate, Regent's Park, and there's a strict Rapha-only dress code. They (I've only been once so saying 'we' might seem presumptuous at this point) ride for about an hour and then shoot off to work or coffee.

It's with them and the thousands of other cyclists of Regent's Park in mind, that I thought I'd write about Francesca Cucina, a new pasta kitchen situated less than a minute to the south on Baker Street, corner Melcombe Street.

Francesca Cucina is styled a slice of Italy, yet the main business is French, reflecting the Italian-French partnership of founder-couple Francesca Albanese and Bertrand Aborgast. It's unapologetically a chain with 118 restaurants worldwide, since inception fifteen years ago, and just this one so far in the UK, open now since 2012 (I love it that us Londoners get to try everything first).

The concept is wonderful bowls of pasta served al dente, but fast, at a very acceptable price, and it works. I kicked off with the pictured bowl of farfalle bolognese, but you can choose fusilli or spaghetti if you want - and several other sauces including vegan options such as spinacci. The pasta was cooked just correctly and the sauce was delicious. I would deduct a couple of points for no whole wheat option on the pasta front, but balance this by saying that I've eaten worse pasta in Italy (and when did you ever see whole wheat pasta offered there?). The boss of the UK fledgling business, Paresh Pandya (pictured), says they are looking to expand the menu and wholewheat pasta is an idea they are considering. Meanwhile, the underlying ethos of the whole company is a transparent supply chain rooted in Italy and healthy, real food. Another nail in the coffin for McDonalds et al.

I can't think of a nicer way to end a ride than to lock up at one of the racks on the corner (just in Melcombe Street) and have an early bowl of warm pasta. Scroll the news and emails on my iPhone, perhaps meet someone for business or mix it all up as we do, cycling and networking.

Paresh reminds me that the place is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner too until 10pm, so it's one of those reliable second homes. There are salads and paninis and the obligatory San Pellegrino beverages, but equally you can request tap water without eliciting obloquy - which is very welcome and unthinkable in Italy. If you go for the small bowl of pasta you can be all done for £5. Arguably this is better value than the equivalent sandwich + cookie from Pret, across the street, but I think Pret wins if you only want a non-carb superfood salad or whatnot, but then if you want carb-free food you're not a cyclist.

1 comment:

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Richard Lofthouse

Richard Lofthouse