Banca – Aperitivo
My first experience of Aperitivo was on a visit to Florence. Mid afternoon we’d stopped in one of Florence’s most beautiful squares for prosecco and icecream. And, been horrified at the bill. Of course, we had probably picked a tourist spot and because we’d been staying in the country, we’d been lulled into the idea that prosecco should cost no more than a few euros and ice-cream rather less so didn’t check the prices. Of course we were annoyed and rather disillusioned. A few hours later, we started to look round for somewhere to eat supper, probably over-cautious at this stage. And at a certain point almost gave up – wandered into a bar and ordered drinks. There were plates of food on the counter – slices of pizza, morsels of ham, arancini – and we asked what the price was.
“Oh it’s free…”
We were amazed and settled down happily to enjoy a couple of drinks and some nibbles. And, that Aperitivo restored my faith in Italy in an instance. Later, one of my Italian friends explained a bit more and told me that many Italians believe you should always eat if you are drinking alcohol. And apparently, Aperitivois a common offering in the chic bars of Milan although rather less so in Southern Italy. It’s inherently sociable and friendly, you stand at the bar rather than sit at a table- a great way to relax and unwind after work and before dinner.
Well, I’m pleased to tell you that the tradition of Aperitivo is alive and well in London. Banca in North Audley Street are offering Aperitivo along with rather fine cocktails between 5 and 7.30 from Tuesday to Friday evenings. Perfect for filling that awkward time between work or shopping and dinner. Although be careful not to overindulge – not only is it regarded as a little rude but as my mother would have said – you simply won’t want your dinner!
We went along the other evening and were quite astonished at the feast being put out, dishes are likely to vary but may include:, Salted Cod Fritters, Vitello Tonnato, Pizzette with Anchovies & Tomato, Seared Octopus with Borlotti Beans & Paprika, Pickled Button Onions in Raspberry Vinegar, Courgette & Carrot Fritte, Focaccia Farcita with Chicory, Anchovies & Garlic, Charcuterie Selection and Panzerotti. All dishes are bite-sized, designed to be easily consumed in the early evening, standing and socialising at the bar.. Of course it would have been rude not to enjoy a cocktail or two as well…
Starting with two beautiful bellinis – refreshing and fresh with a pretty pink peach juice base and topped up with quality prosecco.
Perhaps we DID enjoy a few too many nibbles – there’s a wood burning pizza oven and the freshly baked pizzas were incredibly morish as were the little salted cod fritters. It is all very beautiful – imagine walking into an Italian delicatessen and being invited to try everything. Hard to refuse.
My companion enjoyed an aperol spritzer for his second cocktail, while I had one of the nicest champagne cocktails I’ve ever tried. Served with a twist of orange peel and a glace cherry we were told this was based on champagne and Courvoisier Napoleon Cognac this was a drink with class.
Banca is of course, a restaurant at heart and we took a brief tour of the private dining area, where you can watch the kitchen at work through a one way mirror. It’s rather a fine room, albeit in the basement of the building, with the original bank strong boxes lining the wall.
Cocktails at Banca are around £10-£13 each which is a fairly reasonable price for Mayfair. With aperitivo included in the price it’s a really classy and exceptionally good value offering.
30 N Audley St
London, UK W1K 6ZF