Tom’s entertained by antipasti

Like a scary hoard of genetically modified locusts, 24 of us descended on La Brocca for the first #whampdinner, via a quick meet-up and drink first in the Alice House.

Legendary Brocca owner David had kindly put in place some Prosecco and canapés, which gave everyone some extra mingling and introduction time in the bar. I did what any good co-host should and immediately hogged the comfy leather sofa at the back whilst checking I got a drink before any of the guests.

We had a brilliant evening. It was nice to see some people experiencing La Brocca for the first time, taking in the character of both the bar and basement restaurant. The staff were on fine form too, adding to the fun.

The chefs did a grand job; we shared entertaining antipasto misto starters of salami, Parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, mozzarella and hummus, with bread.

Mains appeared, and it was pleasing to see people trying various things from the customised #whampdinner menu. I decided to break the habit of a lifetime and have the fried gnocchi – my excuse for the predictable order was the robust twist of wild boar sausage slices that accompanied it. Regular readers will know my fondness for gnocchi and I think the idea of frying to give a nice, textured coating is a great idea. The sausage was very rich indeed, and highly flavoursome.

The sea bass proved popular both off the menu and off the plate, while a seafood risotto was devoured at the other end of my table. I was pleased that people also chose pizzas, as La Brocca does a really excellent pizza – some places are a little complacent with them these days; they can be underseasoned and too soft and flabby.

Chef Will’s home-made beef and red wine pie with mashed potato & green beans was going down a storm next to me; I know barman Adam speaks highly of this dish, and it did look very appetising indeed, with the colours making me want to recreate it in a painting. Or just eat it, given I can’t paint.

Those of us greedy enough to tackle desserts found the usual gems on offer, including an excellent Eton Mess, and for me, the apple and caramel crumble.

Rather typically, and foolishly, I can’t remember the wine we were drinking, probably due to the quantity consumed. Possibly a Chilean merlot; perhaps I’ll have to pop in one evening and try a glass of everything in order to prompt my memory.