Walking into the recently opened Noci, located at the former site of the Fat Badger restaurant, felt refreshingly different. The basic layout remains the same, but the place has a completely new vibe.

I was meeting my Italian friend Barbara there for dinner – I thought it sensible to gain an Italian foodie’s opinion of the food, as well as my own.

We had a cocktail each while perusing the menu: I enjoyed a Negroni, and Barbara an Aperol Spritz.

We were brought some House focaccia, Datterini tomato, thyme & garlic along with some excellent extra virgin olive oil.  The focaccia was excellent: as light as anything, with generous cloves of roast garlic, herbs and tomato, and the ‘evoo’ was deliciously peppery and incredibly moreish.

I’d heard some good reports of the Crispy fried mussels, shaved fennel & cucumber salad, yoghurt dressing, so we ordered a starter portion of this, and also some of the ‘Nduja arancini & Parmesan foam.  While the salad was a triumph, it didn’t really need the mussels, which were not that crispy, lukewarm and rather gritty.

It was the only disappointment in our meal.  We ignored the remaining mussels, but thoroughly enjoyed the salad – I feel it might perhaps be better with some anchovies, rather than the mussels. 

The arancini were very good indeed: piping hot, well proportioned, neat little balls of deliciousness with a spicy filling.  Barbara commented that it was unusual to serve them with a Parmesan purée, but we both agreed that it was a great pairing and our remaining focaccia was used to wipe the plate clean.

The friendly server, Anaïs, was telling us that the front of house staff have been well inducted into pasta, even trying their hand at making it. 

We wanted to choose main courses that were fairly light, and Anaïs advised us well. 

We chose Silk handkerchiefs, sautéed leeks, mint, peas, walnuts, confit egg yolk.

This was not only beautifully presented, but superbly light and tasty. 

There was a lemony freshness to it, and the dish was delicate and so good. 

We were sharing our food, and our other main course was equally good, but very different: Beef & shallot raviolo, button mushroom cream & crispy shallot.

Wow! This was packed with flavour – one large pillow of pasta filled with rich meat that had been cooked down to perfection. 

The crispy shallots and the sauce were the icing on the cake, so to speak. 

Being a pasta restaurant, Noci isn’t perhaps ideal for anyone on a low carb diet, but even if one is, this is pasta well worth breaking a diet for.

I commented that I felt it a shame that Noci doesn’t offer side salads to accompany their pasta dishes, but Barbara told me that it’s not common practice in Italy.  

We accompanied our meal with a fabulous bottle of Montepulciano, Bosco Nestore (also available by the glass and the 500cl carafe – as were most of the wines, and needless to say, predominantly Italian)

Our desserts: coffee & tequila cheesecake, amaretti,  and a portion of plant-based chocolate mousse, olive oil, Maldon sea salt, toasted Marcona almonds were interesting. 

The cheesecake was incredibly rich and very good, but we were blown away by the amazing plant-based mousse. 

Anaïs told us that it is made with avocado, and the olive oil added a really unctuous element, with surprising depth of flavour. 

To Sum Up

When I’d first heard that a pasta restaurant was coming to Richmond, I have to admit that I wasn’t that excited. 

I was so very wrong, this place is a triumph and a great addition to our local restaurant scene – I’m just glad they don’t have to put the calories on the menu.