Spuntino is a very small, 25-seater ‘bar-with-food’ (the name translates as ‘little snack’) located in Soho, opened by Russell Norman (the man behind the Polpo and Polpetto restaurants in the same area). Whereas those places are more straight Italian ‘bacaros’ specialising in small plates and great wine, Spuntino is a bullshit-free NY-style bar (or should I say ‘joint?’) with food and drinks both fashioned in a North-American-style. Plates like a choice of Sliders (mini-burgers), mac’n’cheese and even eggplant (aka aubergine) chips with fennel yoghurt. Drinks like Old Fashioned, Jerry Thomas Manhattan and Sazerac cocktails sit alongside the American style but Greenwich-brewed Meantime pale ale and even a red and white wine sourced from Oregon. I think they could do with a few bottled craft ales from around USA on the menu too, but perhaps that’ll come.
I went for lunch and there was no queue, but this was before they got a rave review from Jay Rayner, so it may be a bit more difficult to get in now. They don’t take reservations and apparently don’t have a telephone, so you just have to make the trip and wait. Once seated though, it’s an extremely welcoming environment; the friendly bartenders chat about DFA 1979 and the desire to keep things as affordable as possible, and you’re greeted with a white enamel tin mug of salted popcorn from the machine which sits behind the bar. A steaming hot coffee also came in a tin enamel cup, straight from an old-school filter coffee jug and warmer of the type you see in US/Canadian Diners. These little touches totally put us in the right mood for the refined versions of US junk food staples on offer and also part-fulfilled my fantasies of sitting at an actual New York bar with the same environment.
We initially ordered eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt, shoestring fries, the ground beef & bone marrow and spiced mackerel sliders- and when that wasn’t quite enough, we added softshell crab with tabasco aioli and the zucchini, chilli & mint pizzetta. All were enjoyable, though the shoestring fries seemed more like really thin crisps. The tabasco aioli with the crab had a really great kick of tabasco that worked incredibly well with the perfectly cooked crab. This and the eggplant chips were probably the best things we ate, though everything was extremely tasty.
Spuntino isn’t a place for ‘event food’ though, or even ‘event drinks’. It’s somewhere you really just want to kick back and relax, eating good food and drinking good drinks. So it’s a bit of a shame that it’s so hyped and busy, because that’s hassle, and this place is not hassle. I’m sure the queues of Paul Smith lookalikes will calm down once they find something new to cotton onto. Hopefully Spuntino will also serve as an inspiration for new places to open in a similar style, then I can do all the bar-hopping I want to without having to fly to the USA.
Next time I’m totally ripping off The Wire and drinking a beer and a shot (they do a ‘recession shot’ of Dewars Scotch whisky for just £2), all the way through. And I should probably try the much-hyped Mac ‘n’ cheese and truffled egg toast. I’ll let you know how that combo goes…
Thanks to the internet and various established food blogs for most of these pictures.
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