A New Amico

Following a meat-heavy two weeks in Turkey (for those of you new to Turkish cuisine, they really love their meat. Really), C and A decided to impose a week-long detox on themselves: nothing but vegetables allowed.
Happily, this wasn't too much of a problem for either C or A who, while being big fans of the occasional Hawkesmoor steak or homemade chicken soup, are often just as satisfied cooking up veggie options for weekday dinners.

The situation, however, got increasingly problematic when C scheduled dinner with a friend for mid-way through the veggie detox programme, and was left to book somewhere suitable. In a temporary appreciation for the difficulty that vegetarians face when eating out, she found herself frustratedly scanning multiple restaurant menus looking for appealing meat-free options to no avail. All hope was not lost, though, when she remembered a brilliant Italian restaurant near Farringdon she'd been to a few months ago - and one which was solely vegetarian - and so it was with great relief that C and her friend L (who coincidentally - and happily - is a veggie herself) popped into Amico Bio for dinner.

C's Potato and Aubergine Cake with Carrot Salad - heartily recommended

The first solely vegetarian, organic, Italian restaurant in London (a fact that appealed to C, who lived in Brighton for a few years and is therefore quite a fan of this type of food), the aptly named Amico Bio is the brainchild of Pasquale Amico, who charmingly sources all his ingredients from the family farm in Capua, Italy. Subsequently, the place very much has an Italian family feel - it was opened by Amico and his two cousins - and the waiting staff in here couldn't be any more welcoming, with heavily-accented jokes and chatter aplenty. It is worth mentioning here, though, that they can sometimes be a little 'over the top' and can appear, at least, fairly insincere at times with their compliments, praise and so on.

It's the menu that makes Amico Bio: although not the most extensive you will have seen, there's a consistent selection of stuggichini (basically nibbles), antipasti, pasta and secondi on offer, apparently structured for dinners eaten in the traditional Italian way - antipasti (starter), followed by a pasta course and then a a main dish. C was also happy to learn that the menu is entirely seasonal, and every dish had changed since her last visit.

Arancini - lovely, but deceptively filling!

While C and L were tempted to go for both a pasta and a secondi, both decided they weren't quite hungry enough so settled for a main each with a shared antipasti - the Arancini di riso mozzarella, verza e pomodoro (£3.25). Essentially fairly sizeable balls of rice filled with mozzarella cheese, vegetables and tomatoes, the texture is dense, flavoursome and really very moreish - they come heartily recommended. L, who spent some time in Sicily this summer, explained that arancini are eaten there as a snack big enough for lunch - and while these are definitely a down-sized version of the stuff, it's worth considering that they do make for a filling starter.

C then opted for the crispy Potato and Aubergine Cake with Grated Carrot Salad, which was beautifully presented and tasted every bit as good as it looked - crunchy and light, with the potato cake complementing the accompanying salad and chickpea sauce. L opted for a simpler pasta option, essentially an orecchiette dish with broccoli and a cheese sauce, which she'd also recommend: al dente, full of flavour and perfect in its simplicity. With both mains priced around the £8 mark, it really presents very good value.
C and L also sampled the wines here; opting just for the house red, a full-bodied Aglianico Taburni Domus from 2008, they were very pleasantly surprised by its high quality and fruity flavour - so much so that they ordered a second glass.

The mains

The final thing to note about Amico Bio is that it's a little hard to find; it's near Farringdon, yes, but is tucked away down a backstreet (Cloth Fair) just off Smithfield Market like a well-kept secret. This perception also rings true with the clientele and atmosphere there; while relatively quiet early evening, the place soon livens up and gets extremely busy by 8pm, so booking ahead is advised most days of the week. Try to take a seat by the window to look out to the narrow cobbled street outside and enjoy your food; it's guaranteed to be one of the best vegetarian meals you'll have had in London.

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