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


  1. I have only been in once and we ordered only the peanut butter and jelly dessert (which was wonderful). And we were given popcorn, which was good, but then I should hope so given cover charge (applied even for the tiny order we made during a quiet mid-afternoon period).

    BUT I didn't get it either. Stools aren't my thing, just not comfortable. And we found it extremely hard to get waiter service too, and it wasn't even that busy.

    I don't want to be served by people who think they've got better things to do than, er, their job. Perhaps in an effort to make it seem cool and cutting edge.

    Didn't work for me.

    On the other hand, went to Da Polpo during soft opening and loved it. Firstly, one can make reservations, which suits me far more than the walk-in thing. Secondly, there are proper tables and seats as well as stools. Thirdly, it's big and spacious and airy. Fourthly, service is friendly and helpful and attentive. And fifthly, I like the food. Nothing earth shattering, but good, well cooked comfort food, which is sometimes just the ticket.

    PS Let me know next time you're in London, would love to meet for lunch or dinner.

    On the other hand, I went to Da Polpo during soft opening and liked it a lot.

  2. Hi Kavey,
    Glad to know I'm not the only one that feels this way then. Yes, the stools definitely weren't conducive to whiling away the evening there. And there seemed to be a too-cool-for-school attitude from the staff which I didn't like.

    I loved Polpetto though (never been to Polpo), and Da Polpo sounds really good too and much more my cup of tea. Perhaps we can meet up there next time I'm in town!

  3. Glad to hear I am not the only one who was a bit "huh" on the food. It was pretty basic stuff. And not basic as in its a revelation that things this simple are good. But more, this is just crude cooking.

    However, I was a sucker for the hipster vibe and loved that...