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|Address:||61 Rupert Street, London W1D 7PW|
|Price: £41.00||Wine: £25.50||Champagne: £57.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 11am-12M (Wed-Sat -1am Sun -11pm)|
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
I came to bury, not to praise. After all, we don't really like a winner in this country, not if we’re honest. And particularly not one who manages to make it appear so effortless. We prefer those who huff and puff and manage to succeed almost despite themselves, like Kenny Dalgleish. So Russell Norman, already the proprietor of two massively popular and critically lauded Italian tapas joints (Polpo and Polpetto as you're asking) was really pushing his luck. And how does he do with the third? Yawn, damn near faultless again… How bloody dull.
This one's no bigger than the bathrooms in Spice Market, the hollow gilded cage of gaud currently parting stupid people and the idle rich from their readies in Leicester Square. And no, you won't find me reviewing it soon. I've already had a hollow chuckle at the pricing on its tired fusion menu and spent far too much for far too little in its New York sibling to fall for that trick again. Sputino probably cost as much as one of the gold taps.
That's not saying it isn't designed. Norman really gets how important the look and feel of his joints is to the atmosphere. All have subtle similarities, but fit their homes like well worn hipster jeans. They peeled back the interior panelling on this old bottle shop on Rupert Street and allegedly found the most gorgeous open brickwork and Victorian tiling… Swine. A few architectural prints and oddities artfully thrown up and you’re done. The restaurant, if you can call it that, comprises 20 odd seats round a battered zinc bar that's been there for years (since opening last month). It looks beautiful. Passing Shoreditch design Nazis lie fitting and frothing on the floor outside. Grabbing a seat is a total lottery here though, no reservations mean little chance at busy times unless you’re prepared to watch and wait. Turn up as we did, a pair of Soho irregulars dubiously justifying a meeting on a late afternoon, go early (they open at eleven) or whistle for it, your call.
Like the others, there's a simple selection of wines by the carafe or the tumbler next to a short menu of mouth watering small plates on a paper placemat. Some of the dishes port across from the Venetian tapas roots of the other restaurants; a sweet and butter soft zucchini (more on the language in a bit), mint and chilli pizzetta with a moreishly crispy base wouldn’t look out of place on either menu, soft-shell crab is a favourite and there’s a small selection of different bruchetta. I was more interested in the transatlantic dishes featured. The Mac n Cheese arrived with the gents next to us, a hangover cure sent from heaven. Darkly crispy breadcrumb topped oozing cheese arrived in an enormous Staubb style pan. A steal for £8 and more than enough for one, though judging by the clash of forks next to us, not quite enough for two. We sampled the sliders, another obvious Americanism, this year’s I don’t know what (a Spanish themed version also appears on the menu of The Opera Tavern) and destined to be copied repeatedly and badly elsewhere. We took three from the selection of four; firm spicy sea-salty mackerel, salt beef with Lilliputian cornichons and small beef bombs, made further moist with bone marrow and cooked to a deep salmon pink precision within their coating of cheese, nestled into tiny white buns, chewy firm enough to stand guard against the mingling juices.
We’d also sneaked in a portion of chewy eggplant chips dipped into a fennel yogurt. Interesting, the cold fennel dip was a good twist, but not up there with Zucca’s, admittedly different, Fritti. Worth more than a mention though were the deep-fried olives for which I’ll turn to Mr Hugh Wright, proprietor of website ‘twelve point five percent’ and as delightfully acerbic and well written gentleman as you’ll ever read. “Hot, bitter, salty anchovy-farced pellets of pleasure, laced for all I know with a sprinkling of crack in the crispy crumb encasing them.” Words to make you smile.
Do try and come. It’s worth the (repeated) effort to slide into one of the fixed bar seats, and is in itself as effortlessly cool as the well drilled and friendly rockabilly bar team. So move over Paul Raymond, there's a new king of Soho.