Spuntino is the latest labour of love from Russell Norman, the restaurant entrepreneur who brought us Polpo and Polpetto. If you’re someone that chooses your restaurant by location you won’t come across Spuntino. Squeezed in between the gaudy sex shops of Soho, this inconspicuous little eatery is reminiscent of a secret speakeasy. With frosted windows and a blank sign outside, we walked past several times before eventually spying it.
The restaurant has no phone number and no reservations creating exclusivity and consequently crowds queuing up to get in. To make things worse, Spuntino only seats twenty-six diners (that includes the single ‘kissing stool’). If you’re tactical you might just get in without a wait. The restaurant operates long opening hours and off peak times tend to be less busy, even at weekends. We went along for a snack at 6pm last Sunday and found two spare stools instantly, though ten minutes later there was a queue of eight.
After sitting down I was alarmed by how cool this place actually is: low hanging lights, hip tattooed staff, a vast variety of Bourbons behind the counter, and even bubblegum ball machines near the loos, all giving off a definite New York vibe. A sweet waitress told me about the history... it had previously been an Indian takeaway; Norman removed all the nasty decor to reveal the original beautiful old tiling that you can see in the photo above.
The place settings are dressed with Spuntino brown paper menus explaining the different small New-York inspired Italian dishes. They recommend two or three each. A mug of complimentary spiced popcorn was brought to us, which we munched on while choosing our food. From the ‘sliders’ section, we chose ‘Ground beef & bone marrow’ (£4.50) which is basically a mini burger... super cute and super yummy. Shoestring fries (£3): delicious and moreish and providing a perfect salty side. For a more Italian taste, we picked ‘Zucchini, chilli & mint pizzetta’ (£6) a small crispy pizza with thinly sliced courgette and grated cheese, a pretty smattering of chilli and mint specks. The flavour was sensational and very unusual, I was surprised too by its lightness.
For dessert we tried the ‘Peanut butter and jelly sandwich’ (£6.50) – slabs of triangular peanut butter flavoured ice-cream, with crushed raspberries between, and crunchy nuts sprinkled on top. It was strange and very filling; I found the nutty taste a little overpowering, with not enough juicy raspberry flavour to contrast, but I absolutely love the idea of it.
There was plenty more to try, I’ve heard the ‘Truffled egg toast’ is to die for, and the ‘Brown sugar cheesecake, grappa prunes’ looks dreamy, but we visited after a lunch of my dad’s unrivalled lasagne so I couldn’t fit it in. Perhaps I can try them if I manage to get in for a second time. Soho’s best kept secret, let’s hope it stays that way.
Website and info here.