Regular readers of my blog, you know, the achingly hip, hauntingly beautiful yet supremely intelligent types…. (Yes you), may have noticed a lack of restaurant reviews of late.
Believe it or not, I’ve been dining out often, but the problem is this. The places I’ve been eating at *whispers* haven’t been very good. But to be fair, they haven’t been very bad either. They’ve been alright, sort of OK…adequate.
Y’see I find mediocre boring to eat, extremely boring to write about, and absolutely yawnsome to read. I’m only interested in writing about the two complete opposite ends of the scale. Really bad is really good…. at least, good in the writing sense. It’s an absolute joy to write about somewhere that is cringingly awful, truly abysmal. Because, lets face it, if it’s that bad they deserve everything they get, upto and including my size 11's planted firmly in their rectums, in the literary sense of course.
And really good is just that, the best of all. Cracking to eat and an absolute pleasure to spew forth my gushing appreciation, alles uber da platz.
So. That’s the situation. I’ve been biding my time, pissing my hard earned cash down a urinal of culinary mediocrity, gradually…falling…. asleep…until….
….Last week I finally got a chance to pop my head into the recently opened Spuntino in London
The latest Soho outpost in the rather excellent Polpo/Polpetto stable, Spuntino is, for anyone who’s visited its sister restaurants, both familiar and at the same time, a bit of a diversion. Here is the same battered and frayed Victorian wreck meets New York dive bar chic, the same brown paper menus and even the same almost effortless cool vibe. But out is the Venetian bacaro style menu, instead replaced by a hard to define, New York bar snack menu punctuated with flashes of eccentricity and off the wall brilliance. Also out is the restaurant table, instead a bar fills most of the room with stools surrounding it.
It’s extremely informal. There’s no booking, (there isn’t even a telephone number to call), just show up, grab a stool, eat and drink off the bar with the food arriving in no particular order, as it’s ready.
Sipping a Meantime Pale Ale and studying the menu whilst nibbling on the complimentary popcorn served in a chipped enamel mug, I mentally wrestled with what to order. It’s such an unusual menu, filled with such interesting things it’s hard to know what to try first.
Egg and Soldiers arrived, a shelled, runny boiled egg, coated in a spicy crust with toast for dipping. Something different, but perhaps a bit too conventional when stacked up against the sheer awesomeness of the next dish to appear.
Truffled egg toast. A thick square of toasted white bread, with a square hollow cut into it, which is then filled with beaten eggs and truffle oil, and then finally surrounded by melted fontina cheese was very good indeed. Rich, oozing and just a bit decadent. I liked it a lot.
A Ground Beef and Bone Marrow Slider appeared next. (A Slider, in case you’re not aware is a mini burger). A skewered mini bun of melted cheese smothered meatiness. It was very nice indeed, but I’ve been thinking about the price. It was £4.50, which in itself isn’t terribly expensive…but, just a short walk from here you can get arguably the best burger in London, the Hawksmoor Burger with triple cooked chips for £15. The dilemma in my mind is, do three £4.50 sliders add up to the wonder that is a Hawksmoor burger and chips? I’m inclined to think no. Although in the context of the whole small snack menu, they work – I just think they might be a tad overpriced.
Eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt were beautifully crisp, with a nice aniseed kick from the dip. I could have sat whiling away the hours munching on these whilst drinking beer all day.
I was intrigued by the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, which turned out to be a couple of slices of peanut butter ice cream, sprinkled with crispy peanut ‘bits’ and filled with Jam. It was absolutely cracking, but definitely one for sharing as I found it a bit too sweet to finish on my own. (Although I managed…of course).
Spuntino is a very hard place to dislike. It’s extremely accessible and informal, the menu design, the bar stool eating and the lack of reservations invite both quick grazing and longer drawn out meals. In fact, I suspect propping up the bar here will be a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.
But what I like most is… it’s different.
Where identi-kit restaurants and bars, each with menus practically identical to each other blight our land from top to bottom, Spuntino is breaking new ground. They really are doing their own thing with a menu packed full of interesting new ideas and twists. It’s innovative, eccentric and therefore utterly cool. I applaud and cheer them for this heartily. I will be back, soon.
61 Rupert Street
*Edited to add*
I've just been reliably informed that there is a full size burger available at Spuntino, priced at £8. But just like the famous burger at Joe Allen, it's not actually on the menu.