6 June 2011

Spuntino, London – Restaurant Review

Spuntino is the third act in restaurateurs Russell Norman and Richard Beatty's burgeoning London restaurant empire. Their first two restaurants, Polpo and Polpetto, met with almost universal acclaim. Indeed, I had a wonderful lunch at Polpetto a few months back and loved the intimate and quirkily styled setting, as well as the wonderful small plates of homely Italian food. Norman and Beatty clearly understood they were onto a good thing, and Spuntino is created from a similar mould.

This tiny 26-seat restaurant, located at the seedier end of Soho opened in March 2011 and serves an American influenced menu of small plates of comfort food that can be shared. In its short existence, Spuntino has already become a sensational hit as the dozens of blogger reviews on Urbanspoon will attest to. It has easily become one of the most blogged about restaurants in London, so I suppose there's not really much more I can add, other than to say I just don't get it. Maybe it's me, maybe I ordered badly, maybe they were having a bad day but, at the risk of sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge, I struggled to see the appeal of Spuntino.
Beef & Bone Marrow and Spiced Mackerel Sliders 
Shoestring Fries and Mac & Cheese 
Dessert – "Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich"
The food was OK I suppose, if a bit underwhelming. The best being a spiced mackerel slider (£4.50) that was juicy with a pleasingly mild chilli kick, and a dessert made to look (and taste) like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (£6.50) – a dish as moreish as it was witty. However, a complimentary mug of popcorn was stale, shoestring fries (£3) arrived barely lukewarm, a skillet of bubbling mac & cheese (£8) was cooked too long resulting in a soggy gloopy mess, and although having decent flavour, a beef and bone marrow slider (£4.50) was on the dry side.

In general, I can forgive mediocre food if the service is up to scratch, but sadly Spuntino failed to deliver on that front too. Yes, there was "service" in the sense that our orders were taken (eventually) and our food and drinks brought to us, but this was all done with an overwhelming sense of ennui and indifference. Both Mrs. Nibbler and I were left with the distinct feeling of not being very welcome – not a nice feeling to have in a restaurant.

I realise that I'm in a distinct minority in having these views, which makes me more inclined to pay Spuntino another visit (maybe in the evening instead) and try some more of their dishes, just in case I was there on an off day. Or maybe, as I said, it's just me. I'm 35, married with kids and drive an estate car. I suspect I'm not the target demographic Russell Norman had in mind when conceiving Spuntino, and the number of über-cool twenty-somethings gracing Spuntino's bar stools probably confirms this.

In general, however, I like good food (not necessarily 'fancy' food) and good service (not necessarily fawning service) so, given the many gushing reviews Spuntino has received, my lacklustre experience there left me somewhat mystified. Am I totally wide of the mark? Have I missed something? Perhaps Spuntino is like one of those anti-loitering sound machines that emits a high-pitched frequency that only kids can hear, leaving adults totally oblivious to it. Is this what getting older is like then? Bah, humbug!

Food:         5 / 10
Service:      4 / 10
Ambiance:  6 / 10

61 Rupert Street
London W1D 7PW
United Kingdom

Spuntino on Urbanspoon
Square Meal