"Spuntino is seamless. Everything fits together. An incredible idea."Review Rating: Reviewed by James Whiting
Spuntino is a conceptual masterclass by Russell Norman of Polpo fame. The vibe is grime and the place oozed cool from the outset. This is a 26 seater restaurant that is packed on reputation alone. Menus are placemats, there are no reservations, not even a telephone, just excellent American style treats causing queues for the bar-stools. Grungy lights set the mood, the tiled walls seem to amplify the indie soundtrack. Everything adds to the atmosphere, a symphony in understated fixtures and fittings. Even the only pane of unfrosted glass at the top of the window so the Sex Shop XXX sign across the street was clearly visible, was surely not down to chance. Yet the room only provides some of the magic, the food is what people come back and queue again for.
The wait was an opportunity for some deep fried olives stuffed with anchovies. A half pint of pale ale in miniature tankards washed down the salty explosions of flavour. The wait led to the first of only two complaints of the whole meal. Watching two small boys occupy a thirteenth of the stools, look completely bored and uninterested as they nibbled half a burger, while their parents selfishly tucked into their food oblivious, was hard for the line of people patiently waiting to endure. However, our turn did arrive and the wait was only 35 minutes - it was worth every minute.
With a trip to the theatre looming large the barmen were extremely accommodating, and the food flew out of the kitchen without a hint of being rushed. Straight after the order was placed a tin mug of spiced popcorn hit the bar to whet the appetite and was washed down with another half of pale ale. This combination, like almost everything that evening matched the setting to a tee.
Anticipation and expectation can be perilous emotions when it comes to food, however, Spuntino was right on the money. Eggplant chips with a fennel dip were sweet and intriguing, and gave a delicious eastern flavour, without too much fennel destroying the tastebuds. With four sliders (miniature burgers) on offer, the full set had to be ordered. All were served in perfect, soft, springy buns, yet each had their own distinct flavour and identity. The lamb meatballs were coated in a deep red tomato sauce, but the shavings of pickled cucumber cut through the richness beautifully. The beef and bone marrow was draped in cheese, an excellent burger, with texture provided by the crunch of cornichons. One minor gripe was the lack of more obvious chunks of bone marrow. Pulled pork was punctuated with little shards of crackling giving a deep piggy crunch. The pork was moist and dripping with flavour, although the apple was slightly anonymous. Lastly the smoked mackerel burger sat atop just the right amount of crunchy red cabbage. The fish was elevated to another level by the heat of the chilli that permeated throughout. Picking a winner from the four was virtually impossible, however, it was between the pork and the mackerel.
Lastly there was the truffled eggy cheese on toast, something that has to be experienced to be believed. The smell as the plate was passed across the bar was divine. The pool of intense decadent truffle oil sitting atop the cheese seeped all over the plate blending with the sumptuous yolk that appeared as if by magic when the thick slab of toast was sliced. A dish so simple, yet again completely in keeping with the concept.
My second and last complaint was not having time to try the interesting sounding puddings as the bill had to be rapidly paid while dashing out the door for a jog along Shaftesbury Avenue, making the start of the show with seconds to spare.
Spuntino is seamless. Everything fits together. Service was efficient yet laid back all at once, tattoos and skinny jeans the mandatory uniform. The decor, fittings, lighting, staff, food and soundtrack were effortlessly cool. Spuntino is an incredible idea, executed with ease. Recommendation: go there, but leave the kids at home...
James Whiting reviewed Spuntino on Tue 10 Jan 2012