lunches at Spuntino...

I've been trying to get along to Spuntino for some time now, and let's face it, hundreds and hundreds of people have managed to get along before me to write about it. Still, Nicola and I are both ardent food lovers, and there's always something to be learnt by having the experience first hand. We pitched up in Rupert Street straight from the Hockney exhibition, and spotted Spuntino just in front of us.  Rather marvellously its artfully dishevilled window treatment was propping up two fluorescent and garish policemen, which somehow utterly set it off to perfection. How I wish I'd taken that photograph!

Being a Russell Norman joint, the restaurant interior is kitsch, with a large bar dominating the room, around which wraps a NY diner style counter with high stools. There is also a further table at the back of the room in a little alcove. The bar itself is set up with various bottles containing spirits, mixers etc, and given the amount of space set aside for this, you definitely know that a good deal of the action is actually about the mixology and the drinks.  Menus are paper place mats, and the daily specials are written on by hand.  We didn't have to wait, and went straight to a table. (Just a reminder that they don't take bookings).

We decided to have some things individually, but some things to share.  We ordered the truffled toast, of course, a slider each, and a couple of vegetable dishes.

The pickled vegetables were crisp, with a good variety of fennel, beetroot, carrot, etc, and weren't over pickled. You could still taste the inherent flavour of each variety, and it was interesting to compare the way in which the flavours matched certain veg better than others (for me, anyway).  I particularly liked the fennel, which really works as a soused veg, I'll be giving that one a go at home.  The gentle aniseed flavour balanced nicely with the pickling liquor.

The stir fried olives really weren't to my taste, but I know some people who rave about them.  Stuffed with anchovies, covered with breadcrumbs and fried, they were just a little too overpowering for me.  I'm sure it was the temperature, that mid-heat point where you awaken the ingredient, but don't necessarily let it shine.

The truffled egg toast, much raved about, really wasn't as fabulous as I was expecting either.  So difficult when you've read people rave about a dish, to be served a hard piece of bread, with bland cheese, with no discernible truffle taste.

But then our sliders arrived, and suddenly the kitchen had redeemed itself in my eyes.  The pulled pork slider was chunky, and succulent, but spiked with little crispy bits too... The pickled apple was just a fabulous addition, not only fulfilling that pork/apple combo, but offsetting the richness of the pork, and adding just a little juiciness to the slider.  Delicious.

Roast cauliflower with chermoula and smoked almonds was just bizarre.  I associate strong tastes with chermoula: pungent, powerful, sometimes acidic and scented, here it was just flat. The cauliflower was fine, but the almonds just looked as though someone had thrown a handful onto the plate.  Broccoli with an anchovy dressing was no more successful to be honest.  The dressing may have been nice, but I couldn't really tell - the broccoli (which was actually good fresh broccoli) was waterlogged, all the flavours became waterlogged too...

Then yet again redemption arrived in the form of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I'd happily cross London for this, which given everything that had gone before, is saying something.  The frozen parfait is salty and sweet, smooth, creamy cold... Sandwiched with what appears to be crushed raspberries in a loose jam, it's topped with crushed peanuts and brittle - very moreish!
Nicola had a burnt sugar cheesecake, with prunes soaked in alcohol.  I didn't taste it, but Nicola said that it tasted exactly how you would imagine it would.  I think she preferred my peanut butter sandwich.

I'm still not sure what to make of Spuntino, as many others have reported the service is very, very casual, but individually people were nice, smiley, happy and attentive.  A lot of the time though it appeared to be some sort of staff social club.   I appreciate this is a contradiction, but for me the whole experience was a contradiction.  I loved Mishkins, but this one sort of passes me by...  I think the best thing to do is to go in when you have a hangover, or you're really setting out to get one.  I imagine under those circumstances it will absolutely hit the spot. But the slider, and the peanut butter sandwich are absolutely worth going in to try, and may just mean I give it another go.

61 Rupert Street

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