No telephone. No reservations
Monday to Saturday 11am to Midnight
Sunday Noon to 11pm
‘Creativity is putting your imagination to work’. (Sir Ken Robinson, 2011).
It is only after my fourth visit, have I felt qualified to put pen to paper and write about Spuntino. This is not only because there are quite a few dishes to sample on the menu but because I have found it so hard to find the words to do this diner justice.
Spuntino is the brainchild of Russell Norman and Richard Beatty who have given us the little gems that are Polpo and Polpetto. Inspired by numerous visits to New York, this Soho snack bar is based on an old school Brooklyn diner. Its location on Rupert Street in Soho immersed amongst the sex shops and massage parlours is deliberate.
This site used to be the former Soho Tandoori but it couldn’t look any different from that now. Rusted iron tiles, original mosaic brick walls, antique lamps and a zinc topped bar. Russell and Richard are the restaurant equivalent to Tony Robinson and his time team. You want to find a property that has hidden Victorian brickwork and classic features, call these two.
Don’t expect any similarities to Polpo though. The only thing you will recognise from Polpo is some of the faces and the tattoos. Mighty Ajax is in charge behind the bar and Rachel O’Sullivan holds fort in the kitchen. Eating is done at the counter perched on a bar stool. A small mug of popcorn arrives to welcome you and this is when the fun begins.
Eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt and stuffed fried olives are good to pick at while sampling a Sazerac cocktail that is made in an antique silver teapot and then served in antique silver cup. Think aristocratic Lady GaGa. Everything in Spuntino has a story; something that makes it ‘stand’ out. The crushed ice for cocktails isn’t done by a machine no that is too obvious. It is done by the bartenders using a mallet creating an atmosphere as well as a talking point. The crockery is similar to camping equipment, tin plates and tin bowls.
The menu is split in to Spuntini, sliders, salads, plates and salads. The Croque Monsieur priced at £3 is devilishly good. Sliders are a must and something that isn’t really seen much over here. The bone and beef marrow is the perfect size and consistency and the brioche bun adds to the flavour. The hot salt beef slider with thin slices of gherkin is another winner. Think the best hot salt beef bagel you have had on Brick Lane and then you will be half way there. These are all fairly priced at around £5 each.
Truffled egg toast is clearly going to be a brunch favourite. A decent thick slice of fluffy white bread is served with egg yolks on top and drizzled with truffle oil. A simple chopped salad to accompany makes for a perfect combo.
Next up is the Mac and Cheese. I believe this took 9 tastings to get right but it was worth it as they have simply nailed it. Most Mac and Cheese you find in London, reminds me of what kids produce in art class when they stick dried pasta to stuff Blue Peter style, all dry and lumpy. Here though the Mac and Cheese is a generous portion served in a ceramic dish that has a golden breadcrumb top with lashings of cheese. Each calorific mouthful tastes better than the last.
A salad of duck ham, pecorino and mint is a refreshing dish to counter balance some of the stronger, richer flavours on the menu. Steak and eggs, softshell crab with Tabasco aioli and the calamari, chick peas and ink are all worthy of their place on the menu too. Farmhouse cheddar grits and shoestring fries are must to accompany any of the aforementioned dishes.
Desserts are worth leaving space for. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is two slabs of peanut butter ice cream housing a layer of raspberry jam. Best sweet I have eaten in a long time. Pineapple and liquorice ice cream is a close runner up.
The wine list is short and sharp with Italian labels and a couple of pricey wines from Oregon to finish the list. The Polpo own label Prosecco is also available as is a fine selection of Bourbons ranging from a £2 austerity shot up to £13 a shot for a George T. Stagg.
Spuntino isn’t just about the food. It is so much more. Its personality is gritty, dirty. It has the sizzle.
There is nothing like it in London. It is ahead of the game. It is avant-garde.
Meal for two with wine approx £60