Saturday, 13 August 2011

Spuntino - better late than never

It would appear that every premises Russell Norman touches turns to gourmet gold, if not instantly, then certainly over time. It's taken me until August to finally persevere with the dreaded queue at the Rupert Street sister of Polpo, Da Polpo and Polpetto - Spuntino and I have to say I wish I'd been more patient on previous attempts - the olives alone are worth the wait.

I met my friend Lianne straight from work on a Tuesday evening two weeks ago and we only had to wait a few minutes before we were seated by the door - it was stiflingly hot so we were quite happy to sit here.

Whilst we mulled over the menu some complimentary spiced popcorn was brought over which we demolished fairly quickly and we got engaged into conversation with a couple to my left who informed us the olives were an absolute must and to avoid the sliders as they'd ordered the lamb ones and were disappointed. So we were off.

We ordered a glass of house Prosecco (£5) to toast our lack of waiting time, put in our food requests and began to enjoy the food which all came up at different times.

The stuffed fried olives arrived first and I can honestly say these were one of the naughtiest yet most enjoyable little balls of deliciousness I've ever encountered. Stuffed with an anchovy, sage and thyme and fried in breadcrumbs they were an immensely satisfying little treat.

We took our new friends' advice and didn't order the sliders but I wasn't to miss out on the mac & cheese. We also ordered the duck ham, pecorino and mint salad, the zucchini, chilli and mint pizzetta, spicy sausage and cheddar grits and the eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt.

The mac & cheese was one of the best I've tried - gooey melted cheesey pasta topped with browned breadcrumbs - you just can't go wrong - this to me is indulgent hangover food. I'd hazard that there were at least three cheeses in this - with the breadcrumbs topped with Parmesan. Delicious but I dread to think of the fat content of this one dish.

The duck ham salad was actually a trifle disappointing as there were only three or four tiny (blink and you might miss them) slivvers of meat - and though the little I had was tasty - it just wasnt enough. Also with the sausage and cheese grits this wasn't particularly enjoyable - quite a mulsh of cheese and a sausage sauce - the flavours were OK but the texture put me in mind of baby food.

The eggplant chips were sensational with the fennel yoghurt - they, like the olives, had the fried yumminess of something that is oh so naughty but just tastes oh so good and the yoghurt complemented it perfectly giving it a piquant freshness.

The final dish of the 'spuntino's' (snacks) was my star dish by far - it was the Zucchini, Chilli and Mint Pizzetta and was light as a feather, crispy based with toppings that were fresh and gorgeous. This transported me to Milan's artist quarter where I've enjoyed my best ever pizzas. I'd love to know how the base was just crisped with such a gorgeous flavour to it. For me zucchini with a hit of chilli and mint were the perfect combination. Fabulous.

We both ordered a cocktail each in and amongst the eating and these deserve mention too - not least because of their potent alcohol levels - I can imagine it's very easy to leave here drunk if you had more that one of these! I had an Orange Blossom - classically gin based with lots of freshly squeezed orange juice and Lianne chose a Mint Julep - almost mojito esque but with about three times the amount of white rum!

Finally we both 'forced ourselves' into having one of their desserts despite both being slightly over full and chastising ourselves about the uncountable calorific content of half of our dishes.

I had the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich which was a very clever take on the all American classic. The peanut butter served as the bread part of the sandwich and was a rich, creamy and to-die-for ice cream and the filling - the jelly or jam was a gorgeously sweet raspberry. To top this off shavings of honeycomb were covering this to give it another texture - it was a beautiful dessert both to look at and to eat.

Lianne chose well too in her Brown Sugar Cheesecake. The base was sweet with just the right amount of crunch and bite and the filling was just delicious. Drunken cherries surrounded to complete this fantastic pudding and I'm not ashamed to say neither of us left a crumb.

As is often the way with the 'small plates' way of eating this doesn't work out cheap and came in at over £40 a head, with only two drinks.
Next time I return I will at least attempt the sliders as I saw a few other diners enjoying them around the bar and I will be returning sooner rather than later.
Spuntino on Urbanspoon

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