You know me by now, if there’s a bandwagon to jump on, i’m jumpin’! So when I saw all over Tik Tok that there was a restaurant in London that made your pasta inside a hollowed out cheese wheel at your table, you betcha I wanted to check it out! So, knowing we had a trip to London planned in July fr some early birthday celebrations, I set an alarm for 7am the month before, and nabbed a tea time table at Circolo Popolare.
The problem with things going viral though? Once somewhere is at the top, there’s only one way to go from there so as the trip grew closer I was starting to see lots of posts about how Circolo Popolare wasn’t living up to the hype; pasta was cold, staff were rude etc etc. So I thought it only far, nay, my duty, to report back on our experience.
First off, as I say above, it can be tricky to get a reservation. They only open their online booking system 1 month prior and you need to be quick to grab a good slot. We’d tried booking a table for 8 people for the following day but despite Lucy being up and logged on bang on 7am. No joy. So Dave and I ending up getting a table for two at 4pm, which was the only table available. That’s how quickly it gets booked. So be warned.
When we arrived on the day, it was lovely, bright and welcoming. And half full. Weird considering how hard it is to book a table. They do keep a few tables free for walk ins but I definitely expected it to be busier than it was.
Our waitress was lovely and got us sorted with drinks straight away – so definitely no issues with surly staff in our experience. You view the menu via a QR code on the table so once we decided what we wanted we sat back and enjoyed our surroundings which I have to say, are beautiful. The walls are adorned with bottles of booze (kind of how my kitchen would look if I were famous) and the vine leaves and spotlights across the ceiling really made it feel like you were suddenly transported on holiday.
Now to the food. Dave ordered the Naughty Garlic Bread (garlic flatbread with caciocavallo cheese and parmigiano reggiano) and I, the Aubergine Epanadas (which came with cheese and basil aioli dip – which was incredible!) so far so good, both starters were absolutely top notch.
For mains we had to go for the Gran Carbonara which is the dish served in the round of pecorino (the cheese wheel). When we ordered our waitress gave us a smile and nod which said ‘of course that’s what you want you northern tourists’ but in a nice way. Anyway, I can categorically say it was worth it, as an experi
ence if nothing else. It’s lovely and creamy and there’s plenty of bacon in for extra flavour. Ours certainly wasn’t cold. When you first get your portion it doesn’t look loads but it’s very rich and very filling. Not that I think carbonara it’s particularly tricky to get right, it was probably the best carbonara I’ve ever had, so that’s got to tell you something.
Despite being full of pasta, I couldn’t walk away from a dessert at this point, I was all in. So we shared the Peanut Profiterole Napoletana (huge choux pastry, vanilla ice cream, caramelised peanuts smothered in warm dark chocolate). And when they say huge, they mean huge, it was definitely big enough to share, and then even not be able to finish it all. Dave wasn’t a massive fan of the chocolate it came with, as it’s akin to the type of chocolate you get in chocolate fountains; they do something weird to it to keep it hot and runny which he’s not all that keen on but I enjoyed it and if you’re sharing, it’s actually quite reasonable at £9.50
Here’s a breakdown of what everything we had cost:
Naughty garlic bread: £4.50
Aubergine empanadas: £8
La Gran Carbonara: £17 per person
Peanut profiterole napoletana: £9.50
Glass of house white wine: £5.50
Pint of lager: £6
So, for London, not massively extortionate and I can confidently say the food was worth what we paid for it. Definitely worth mentioning that if the novelty of the cheese wheel pasta wasn’t your thing, the pizza looked absolutely huge and are priced at between £12.50 and £18.50.
There were only a couple of things that let the visit down to us; 1. the whole having to book a month in advance. I get that it’s popular, but it just makes the whole experience more stressful than it needs to be and 2. you’re only allocated 90 minutes when you book a table and as such the service is extremely quick. We were in and out in just over an hour and sometimes like to linger between courses.
All things considered though, is Circolo Popolare worth the hype. Yes. Yes it is.