Bucca, Buckingham MK18 1SB – restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 12:29 18 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:29 18 July 2013
There’s a feast of flavours and unusual treats at Buckingham’s new restaurant, including some hot, hot, tempters, Kathleen Burford discovers
I’m loving the cross-cultural collaboration in food right now, having recently returned from Tokyo and been lucky enough to bag a table at Narisawa, voted Asia’s number 1 restaurant, where French techniques meet Japanese art and philosophy. So I was brimming with big city food smuggery and condescending concern upon learning that Buckingham had a new eatery boasting fresh ideas in an African and European pairing.
I must retract. Bucca Restaurant is a beautiful blend. It’s owned by local residents, husband and wife Sammy and Zakima Omotayo, and sits in a sunny corner of a shopping parade behind the high street. It’s big city handsome and shouldn’t be hidden. A fine spot for myself and the other half to wile away a languid, food-fuelled afternoon.
Bucca is a split level offering. Downstairs is ‘The Pantry’, a chic 15-seater offering pastries on petit rustic boards and hot drinks in over-sized earthenware. The Pantry menu includes sharing boards and salads with exotic accompaniments like butternut jam and baobab vinaigrette. The charcuterie board offered cured meats from Britain’s finest, Trealy farm in Monmouthshire. The cheeses come from Oxford artisan suppliers and Neal’s Yard. We settled on a simple garlic flatbread with a romesco and shito sauce. Like children, we giggle at the name ‘shito’ and offer up the obvious associations. Our South African waiter explains that shito is a spicy Ghanaian condiment of smoked prawn, garlic, olive oil and scotch bonnet peppers. He tells us it’s very hot, hence the blending with the tomato romesco sauce.
A warning of heat always signals a display of swagger in my other half and the waiter is asked to ‘bring it on’. The flat bread was light and crisp, painted with fresh, minced garlic and salsa verde, with the romesco and shito on the side. The shito: flavoursome and full, but exceptionally hot. Man versus food hot. No amount of Coopers Sparkling Ale was going to quench this fire or the twinkle in the waiter’s eye. He had witnessed this self-inflicted shock before. No cultural disrespect, but we agreed that that the name must come from the expletive you yelp when the heat hits. We’ll double up on romesco next time.
A wall hanging states: ‘Upstairs is where the magic happens’. I couldn’t agree more. Intimate, elegant and almost masculine in its deep and smoky colouring. Food choices are select and short, laid out on a single sheet. The wine list is equally concise, starting under £15 with some unconventional choices. I noted the majestic Hungarian Tokaji (£25). It graces the menu of the Ledbury, Pollen Street Social and Artichoke with its dryness to the taste. On the nose it is lime, gooseberry and a hint of smoke.
We share a black pudding and cassava cake (£6.50). A light veil of crisp golden bread crumbs dresses a velvety sphere of Boudin Noir with chunks of the African tuber to cut the richness. Crowned with a slow cooked egg and bejewelled with salsa verde, it was a delight. The other half had been torn between the pan-fried Icelandic Cod with chorizo risotto and a classic French onglet with chips and Béarnaise (£16.95). I had been seduced by the ‘Afropean’ Bedfordshire lamb with yam puree and a kola nut and bone marrow gravy (£17.95).
Service was well paced, friendly and informative. The African kola nut and bone marrow gravy was divine with a deep intensity and sticky blissfulness, while the lamb neck melted onto the fork. The onglet was a wholesome slab of richly flavoured beef, perfectly cooked and lightly showered with sea salt.
We ate brilliantly, but for lunchtime were defeated and could only ogle desserts, including a molten-centred chocolate moelleux and Shea butter ice cream. I’ve vowed to meet a girlfriend for lunch to try the Nutella pizza!
15 Cornwall Place
Tel: 01280 817 141