La Barca Ristorante: Old School Italian
Although Lower Marsh has only recently been in the limelight for its indie cafes and quirky vibe, La Barca has been around for the last three decades Tucked away right at the end of the lane, its rather traditional and unassuming exteriors make it easy to miss. It doesn’t help that it’s located across the colourful Cubana that is constantly buzzing with loud music.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t judge a restaurant by its colour. It was hunger that accidently brought me to La Barca. For Londoners know that trying to find some good grub past 11 PM can be a frustrating endeavour. So, after being turned down by at least 4 restaurants – including Cubana which only serves drinks after 10 PM – and being told that McDonalds was our best bet, we thought we’d try our luck at La Barca. Alas! We have a winner.
When a cuisine has been commoditised to the extent that Italian has in London, one is often skeptical about restaurants that profess authenticity. Luckily for La Barca, this label is not one they need to justify. Its owners hail from the quaint town of Lucca, and the standalone restaurant has remained in the family for generations. The waiter recommends the red wine from Montepulciano, which rings a bell from an earlier trip to Tuscany. Now, I’m intrigued.
The white tablecloths and dark wooden walls almost appear anachronistic, but they evoke nostalgia from the Italian restaurants that my family and I frequented in my childhood. The dishes are definitely pricier, but for two hungry souls at this time of night, there’s little scope to be choosy. The wine arrives and it’s well worth its price. We clink to the father’s first night in town: to more unexpected culinary discoveries!
Seeing as it’s late, we avoid the carb-heavy Pizza and Pasta dishes. We settle on the Insalata Tricolore as antipasti, and the Pulcino alla diavola, which is in the Carne section, for our mains.
The starters are an interesting twist on the Caprese, housing fresh mozzarella, avocadoes, tomatoes and rocket leaves. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are generously splashed on, because when in Rome. I’ll admit that the dish is uncharacteristic of my usual order choices, since my standard scruples dictate: why pay for something that I can toss together at home? But tonight the fresh flavours and light ingredients are appreciated.
The chicken is succulent, and the balance of herbs and chilies makes for a well-balanced sauce. The waiter warns us that it’s last call for dessert, but our appetites are now worn out. We admire the interiors while waiting for the cheque. Photo frames with portraits of what appear to be the different family members adorn the wall in front of us. It’s as if they’re welcoming you into their humble abode.
I pick up a few mints as I leave. The unbranded white packaging is similar to the ones I had after my Italian meal at Da Mario in Covent Garden. It’s nearing midnight, and I can hear the waiters loudly conversing in Italian as they finally close up for the night.
I would say Arrivederci (until we meet again), but that may be dependent on my late night hunger pangs. So for now, grazie La Barca!
Where: 80-81 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London SE1 7AB.