I rarely write about restaurants these days. Eating out is still something I do several times a week but a restaurant rarely inspires me enough to want to sit down and tell you lot about it. Nopi is a perfect example. I mean yeah, it was okay but something about it feels a little uptight and damn, it’s expensive. Ottolenghi’s books, I find inspiring. His restaurants, not so much.
Anyway I am breaking my fast with Spuntino because it’s simply bloody brilliant. Nestled amongst the neon strip-lit sex shops of Soho sits Russell Norman’s latest project. It’s a small yet beautiful space, which Russell designed himself; on the first day of ownership he beat a pickaxe through the soulless MDF crust of an Indian restaurant to reveal glorious white glazed tiles and mosaics, slightly faded. Most of the seating is at the bar, the stools made in one of the UK’s oldest forgeries in Elephant, the very same which forged the lions in Trafalgar Square. Caged bulbs hang low above our heads; it’s all very basement chic.
We start ordering. It’s small plates, just like Polpo and Polpetto, all more than reasonably priced (Ottolenghi could learn a trick or two from Norman). We start with crunchy fingers of smoky aubergine plunged into fennel yoghurt. Brilliant. Then there’s just no stopping us. The modestly named ‘egg and soldiers’ is just that, but the egg is encased in a crunchy crust, golden oozy yolk ripe for the dunking. House pickles were perfect, not to sweet nor sour, the fennel the best of the bunch and something I’ll definitely be trying at home. Lardo on toast was brilliant because it was lardo on toast (properly charred), caperberries the perfect astringent foil. A ground beef slider was seriously beefy, with that richness and depth that comes only from bone marrow. Melted cheese can never hurt, and it didn’t.
And then it came: truffled egg toast. Inspired by a dish in a New York caff with limited cooking facilities, the egg is cooked in the centre of fluffy white bread, a layer of melting Fontina in place of the ‘white’. The whole thing is infused with truffle oil. We descend on it like starving gannets, the yolk oozing from the bread with every cut. This is the food of dreams. There’s also a duck ham, pecorino and mint salad, sausage, lentils and radicchio heady with fennel and mustard and my first taste of grits: cheesy and spiked generously with paprika. Really though, it’s all about that truffled egg toast.
We still find room for dessert. Liquorice ice cream with carpaccio-ed pineapple arrives first. “It’s like eating a Black Jack!” I say to the barman who trumps me by saying it’s like eating a Black Jack and a Fruit Salad sweet at the same time, which it is. Brilliant fun. The ‘peanut butter and jam sandwich’ however is even better: the ‘bread’ is made from peanut butter ice cream, thick raspberry jam in the middle, crunchy bits and pieces sprinkled all over. Our spoons clash over the final mouthfuls.
The bar is great too. The staff are knowledgeable about both drinks and food and manage to be super trendy yet not annoying. The atmosphere is buzzing and I say more than several times that I could stay all night. In fact the only problem I can see with Spuntino is the urge to eat absolutely everything on the menu, and drink the bar dry. We spent £120 between two but we ate and drank like Kings and Queens. ‘Spuntini’ are priced at £3-£4.50; the average price of other dishes £5-£6. You can buy a shot of Dewar’s Scotch Whisky for £2 due to the ‘wafer thin margin’. Oh just go. Go, go and go again.
61 Rupert Street
Spuntino operates a no booking policy like Polpo and Polpetto.