Few of us are not guilty of the desperate, heavy-limbed slump into a tourist rip-off joint on the central squares of any major capital. Especially after a full day’s schlepping. That convenient, if slightly sticky, plastified picture menu that saves you the embarassment of misordering. The tantalising “€10 set menu”. The waiter’s ninja arm-wrestle that yoinks you into the premises whether you were headed there or not (Brussels is particularly good at this). Most of all, the flaccid, browning salad and rubbery pizza that awaits, like a slice of Satan’s slipper reheated in the microwave of Mount Doom. If you’re missing that particular holiday experience, I suggest you head to Bacco straight away.Bacco’s website promises quite hearteningly that its buffet not only gives you “a congenial opportunity of creating your own starter or main course plate” but also “the ability to closely inspect food before selecting it”. Should a restaurant need to encourage its diners to poke their plates like Health and Safety inspectors? Are they trying to over-compensate for a previous rat infestation? And what is congenial about having to serve yourself?
A plate of linguine al nero di seppia con vongole, squid ink linguine with clams, came with a sauce that seemed concocted from flour paste, sticking to the palate like wallpaper glue. The clams were so thickly coated with this sapid, pasty sauce I could barely taste them. They sell something similar at B&Q. Why any pasta with clams should require flour in its sauce I don’t know, except that the entire place was so unctuous in its phoney charm the sauce might well have oozed off the walls and onto the plate as it made its way to the table.
A starter of avocado and crab mousse tasted like little more than guacamole in a nice circle shape on the plate and my neighbour’s grilled king prawns with chilli would have been more appetising had they been drained of their sea of olive oil. The service was attentive and pleasant, if a little reminiscent of the comic nature of Dolmio adverts. It was “signorina this” and “signorina that”, eccentric flourishes of the hand and a loud “perrrrrrrrfetto” every two seconds. Along with the assurance that you could inspect your own food, Bacco’s staff gave off the sense of a desperate need of reassurance you hadn’t found a nose hair in your wine glass, or a bug in your tagliatelle.