It's not fancy, it's not big and it's not clever, but the scrag end is delicious. For simple, honest opinions on restaurants, recipes, supper clubs and what not, you've come to the right place.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street, Soho

Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the brains behind Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and shortly, Da Polpo, are good at promotion. I liked Spuntino before I’d even been, charmed by innumerable positive blog posts, my previous experiences of Polpetto, and the proprietors’ considerable Twitter charm (Twarm, I suppose). 

I loved that it’s on Rupert Street in the proper, seedy bit of Soho. I loved that it’s a sit-at-the-bar style, American-influenced place. I loved the mac and cheese on the menu. So, I’d more or less made up my mind that when I could get a seat at Spuntino, it would be good.

And so it was, sort of. The room is wonderful. It’s a tarted up old bath house, by the looks of it, with one wall seemingly original - slightly scruffy and full of filthy stories. The bar where we sat is charming; the drinks American-influenced and heavy on the Bourbon. It’s an excellent impression of a movie fantasy of an American dive.

The food’s good too. After chilli popcorn as a complimentary snack, a beef and bone marrow slider was generous and comforting, far better than the last slider I ate. Its mackerel counterpart could have been a step too far, but delivered a minty, fishy punch that I loved. 

Soft shell crab was a little bland and grimly presented. Tabasco mayonnaise didn’t really kick like you’d hope, while fennel lacked crunch and zing. Chopped salad with a light, Caesar-style dressing proved a more willing partner. 


Mac and cheese, on the other hand, was terrific, a dirty, cheap, creamy, calorific delight. Served piping hot, it carried on cooking in its skillet at the table, leaving crunchy, burnt treats round the edge of the pan. It would be a perfect dish for local workers, lunching or grabbing a hearty snack between exertions. Loud conversations between waiting staff about the rubbish films they’d seen recently didn’t quite ruin the effect. 

Lastly, we shared a brown sugar cheesecake. As Mick Jagger once sang of something entirely different: “Ah, brown sugar, how come you taste so good?” It’s a fair question, and I expect the answer had something to do with the beautiful syrup on top and fat prunes. 

But despite all this tastiness, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that there’s something a little bit phoney about Spuntino, like it’s going through the motions. It feels cynical - too professional, perhaps, and without the love that Polpetto exudes.

At less than £20 per head with a bottle of sparkling water, I should imagine it’s a good bit cheaper than other places in the area, but then, many of those don’t sell food.

Phil Letts’ take: 7/10

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

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