• Amico Bio, London: One of the world’s top vegetarian restaurants

    January 15th, 2011mr meanerlondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    As a boy, I would spend my summers in Rome being dragged around the piazzas by my bohemian mother. My father is an Italian chef, restaurateur and hotelier, and I suppose some of his passion for food and good service must be in my DNA. Although my food preparation skills leave a lot to be desired, I know when I’m eating good food, and getting good service. Of course, “fine dining” in a vegan sense is rather difficult to find wherever one goes – and so I was delighted to find a highly vegan-friendly vegetarian Italian restaurant in London.

    Like all real Italian restaurants, Amico Bio is owned by a family, one of which is the Chef. In this case, the genius behind the restaurant is proprietor Pasquale Amico who has partnered with his cousins Bruno and Enrique to create a truly superb experience which envelopes your senses even before you walk through the door, and continues as a happy memory long after your visit.

    Pasquale Amico and two of his cousins, Enrico Amico and Bruno Zarzaca, co-own Amico Bio Restaurant

    Before we dive into the food, it’s worth noting from Pasquale’s bio (no pun intended) that he cut his culinary teeth in Southern Italy before opening restaurants in Japan and London. It’s no surprise, therefore, that his kitchen creations are a developmental fusion of his Italian roots, Western European sensibilities and even Japanese influences. To be sure, mavens of traditional Southern Italian cuisine won’t be disappointed (all the regulars are on the menu: Risotto, Ravioli and Bruschetta to name but three). In traditional Italian style the menu has a limited number of items yet changes daily, save for some staple “signature” dishes that are nearly always available.

    So, to be traditional, we intended on ordering four courses, kicking off with a “Stuzzichini” dish (that’s a kind of light appetizer designed to be eaten easily and enjoyed while your wine is aspirating and/or you’re deciding on what else to order).

    Olive nere infornate: Warm marinated black olives £2.00

    First up was Olive nere infornate: Warm, marinated black olives on little sticks with herbs and spices. They lasted about 15 seconds – each olive being an explosion of flavor in one’s mouth as the warm marinade and soft, fleshy olive mixed together perfectly. We were glad there were only eight olives, as they were rather filling. Also, they set a high standard going in: If Pasquale Amico can create such an amazing thing out of olives, what else was in store?

    Well, we spent a good deal of time pouring over the menu. Although Amico Bio is lacto-ovo vegetarian almost everything (with the exception of the deserts – see later) is vegan, and there are plenty of Gluten-Free options (Fritz: Please take note). Also, half of the non-vegan dishes could be specified as Vegan with ingredients being substituted or omitted.

    After we started sipping our gorgeous vegan, organic wine and in keeping with tradition we ordered “Antipasi” (literal translation: “Before the meal”) of Affettati di muscolo di grano con cetrioli e ravanelli. Translated as “Tray of muscolo di grano slices with a salad of cucumber and red radish”. I love it when even the translations have words in the original language, as it usually means that there’s no analog in the target language. After we found out that “muscolo di grano” was actually thinly-sliced wheat protein (seitan) we were most intrigued to try it out.

    Affettati di muscolo di grano con cetrioli e ravanelli (for 2 people): Tray of muscolo di grano slices with a salad of cucumber and red radish £8.50

    Clearly, Pasquale’s experience in Japan is being put to good use: He’d created the nearest thing I’ve ever seen to Prosciutto – thin slices of wheat “meat”, seasoned and served with bread and salad. This dish absolutely blew us away, and I still think about it from time to time now. The picture doesn’t even begin to to the food justice: the slices were scrumptious in and of themselves, but when combined with the fresh-baked bread and cold salad they metamorphosed into one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. There were three different flavors of slices, presumably intended to emulate the variety of cold cut meats that are served in regular Italian restaurants. One was a spicy, tomatoey flavor. The other was darker and softer – with almost a peppery taste, and my favorite was seasoned with Italian herbs and melted on your mouth like butter.

    If I’m gushing about this dish, it’s because it’s a truly unique creation. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it’s so amazingly wonderful that it should be on every vegan’s bucket list. Try it, and you’ll agree. Please!

    Crocchetta di patate e lenticchie, con cipolla fritta e pomodori al forno: Pan fried potato and lentil cake,with roasted tomato and crispy onions £8.00

    Next up, we went for what turned out to be a one of the most delicately flavored things I’ve ever eaten: Crocchetta di patate e lenticchie, con cipolla fritta e pomodori al forno, translated as Pan fried potato and lentil cake, with roasted tomato and crispy onions. Again, this thing was wonderful. Although pan fried, it didn’t taste at all greasy, and was so soft and steamy inside that I could have inhaled it! Such delicate seasoning from fresh Italian herbs, as well as tasty organic ingredients is a very rare thing indeed, and I can assure you that you will never have tasted anything quite to exquisite: Soft, steamy potato and lentil that’s slightly crispy on the outside, perfectly seasoned and designed to be eaten with some home-made pesto sauce and crispy onions. Amazing.

    Risotto integrale del giorno: Wholemeal risotto of the day £6.50

    As if that wasn’t enough, we went for our final dish of the Risotto integrale del giorno: Wholemeal risotto of the day. While the dish was perfectly prepared and very, very tasty indeed, I suppose that risotto is intended to be a simple dish with minimal flavors (in Italy it’s frequently served as a side to other food items) so it didn’t quite live up to the astounding originality of the other food, but it was damn good nonetheless!

    Even though we were getting full by this point, we asked to see the “Dolci” (desert) menu. Here, most of the dishes were not vegan and the one that was “Fresh fruit salad” didn’t sound too appetizing so we skipped on il Doci. Looking at the menu online now, though, there are quite a few more vegan options – a couple of which sound divine.

    To sum up, from the very moment I set foot through the door of Amico Bio, I knew I was somewhere different. The restaurant is situated in a very old part of London on a quiet cobbled street with gas lamps. If you’re in Blighty, please do check out Amico Bio. Chef Pasquale himself will probably be there, as will his cousins. He’ll tell you about his dishes before disappearing into the kitchen to prepare them for you himself. You’ll have a super wine selection as well as the kind of service that’s almost forgotten these days.

    Amico Bio
    44 Cloth Fair London EC1A 7JQ
    0207 6007778
    Open Monday – Friday: noon to 10:30pm
    Saturday: 5pm to 10:30pm

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8 responses to “Amico Bio, London: One of the world’s top vegetarian restaurants” RSS icon

  • I’ve never been here, but I drink in Jerusalem Tavern all the time. Great write-up, I’ll book a table there next week. Thanks Quarry Girl.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a restaurant review. This sounds like a dream.

  • Goodness, I can hardly believe I got a special mention in a Quarry Girl review! THANK YOU, Mr. Meaner! : ) And seriously, I find it VERY impressive that you take my (and others’) gluten concerns into account; thank you so very much! The pan-fried potato and lentil cake looks and sounds delicious, as does the risotto! And the WINE… oh my, how heavenly it must be! Fantastic review! I doubt that my partner and I will ever be able to visit London again, but if we ever DO, we will want to enjoy a meal at Amico Bio, thanks to you!

  • We had the pleasure of dining here in November and it was wonderful. Thanks to you for the reccomendations we enjoyed great vegan dining throughout London and England.

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    It looks lovely!!

  • I’ve not heard of this restaurant before but will certainly be looking it up on a future trip to London. Thanks for the review.

  • Beautiful looking place. Looks like a winner on my first trip to London.

  • Beats Zilli Green hands down. Aldo and Enzo have a lot of work to do.

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