Spuntino Soho 1

61 Rupert Street , London, W1D 7PW

8 reviews

41 North American Soho

  • Spuntino
  • Spuntino
  • Spuntino

SquareMeal Review of Spuntino Soho

Russell Norman’s ode to Manhattan cool revels in its scruffy nonchalance, with a non-descript facade that’s easy to miss. Beyond, laid-back staff and equally laid-back customers (tattoos and facial hair are de rigueur) congregate on either side of a long bar. The snack-fuelled US/Italian menu is designed to soak up some heavy drinks, including a regularly changing cocktail list which makes use of more than 10 bourbon varieties. Alternatively, grab a beer with a shot for a fiver, and get your ballast from buttermilk-fried chicken, crackling aubergine chips with a sprightly fennel yoghurt dip or crab cake and eggs Benedict, squelching out from an English muffin. The tiny room (‘27 stools and a popcorn machine’ as the restaurant puts it) has been stripped back to reveal cracked white tiles and battered walls, in what has fast become the Soho norm. Naturally, you can’t make a reservation, but the peanut butter and jam dessert is worth the wait.

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8.5

Food & Drink: 8.1

Service: 7.8

Atmosphere: 8.1

Value: 7.5

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Nicole G. silver reviewer 30 October 2014

Spuntino is a tiny, tiny little restaurant just off Brewer St in Soho. Most of the chairs are set up at the large counter and there is seating for about 27 people. Needless to say, they’re part of the initiative that will not allow pre-booking. In fact they don’t even have a telephone. I’ve mentioned before how I really dislike that policy because most of the time, the length of the wait far outweighs the quality of the food, but not here. The food at Spuntino is exceptional. The entire restaurant is a large rectangular counter, with seats ranged round it. It’s small menu is a mix of simple, straightforward food – Croque Monsieur, salads, sliders, steak and eggs, pizzetta. It’s not fancy but it is basic food prepared very well. Sometimes it feels like a lot of new restaurants have forgotten to do that. My friend is vegetarian and since we were sharing, we had the zucchini, chilli and mint pizzetta, the pickled onion rings, Spuntino slaw and mac & cheese. I’m not a fan of zucchini (or courgettes, whatever name they take) but the pizzetta was just amazing The courgettes were perfectly combined with the other ingredients so all the flavours married together. It was very light too. I was honestly ambivalent about the onion rings but then I’ve never been a fan and though they were tasty, I didn’t love them. My friend did though. The slaw was crisp and because it hadn’t been diced into the usual very small pieces, the flavours were really clear and very good. It hadn’t been diced to death and there I think the most impressive and wonderful dish was the mac and cheese. It’s surprisingly easy to get mac and cheese just a little wrong. Too much heavy cheese, or too many fancy ingredients and it becomes a chore to eat. This was perfect. It was the exact right balance of pasta and cheese and whatever else they added to it. Just brilliant. I’m getting hungry thinking about it. All that food combined with a very reasonably priced bottle of white wine. The service is impressive. Not because they’re attentive – though they are but then they are slightly trapped in that middle area with the diners surrounding them. The service is impressive because even though there were people waiting, not once did I feel I was being pushed to hurry up and vacate my stool. They’re efficient and friendly too. It’s incredible how one single restaurant visit can either entice you to try other restaurants by the same chef/restaurateur or else completely sour you on the entire experience. I haven’t tried any of Russell Norman’s other ventures but if this is the quality of food and service I can expect, then they are definitely now high on my list. Spuntino is the very best of diner food and I wish we had more like this in London.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Natalie B. 21 July 2013

Amazing food, attentive service. Will definitely come back again!!

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 2.0

Sophie E. 18 July 2013

Had a brilliant night here with friends – we weren't in a rush so queued down the side with a bottle of wine and chatted away. Really lovely food – taken old american classics and turned it into bite size tapas. worth a visit

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 1.0

Duncan G. 11 April 2013

We arrived at just after 6pm and were seated immediately in an area away from the already full bar. I was glad of this as the bar area was soon filled by the rapidly forming queue and made it very cramped. Service was good, a little slow initially perhaps but not too much, and as I was expecting to be rushed through to seat others it was actually a surprise. Perhaps they were serving drinks to those in the queue and were therefore kept busy. For the two of us we ordered the four sliders between us, a portion of shoestring fries each with a bottled lager and a coke. The fries were well cooked to a delicious crisp and tasty. The sliders were all tasty too, but didn't stand out from any burgers I've eaten outside of the well known fast food joints. As a result, a small burger (and the two sliders would make a very small burger) and fries with a coke for over £15 is not good value. That is the impression we were left with of Spuntino. The food is tasty enough, but not as good as they think (and its prices indicate they thinks it is very, very good). If prices matched the simple food they are serving I would've been more impressed but whilst people are queuing out the door to see and be seen in the uber-cool setting they have no reason to change and who can blame them. We left feeling we'd not eaten a full meal and for nearly £40 for two for a very simple meal that is not cool. As a result Spuntino's isn't either despite its efforts to be so.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Matt P. gold reviewer 24 September 2011

There's a semi-secret feel to this place on a slightly dodgy cobbled street in old school Soho. Inside diners sit at a horseshoe bar, with the queue forming behind you. Terrific food in small plates, decor's lovely, overall vibe is wonderful. Staff are cool but not too cool and happily push cocktails your way. If they took reservations, I'd be here ALL the time – as it is, you can wait 45 mins for a table at peak times.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

David J. gold reviewer 28 May 2011

I’m usually the last person among my friends to visit a trendy new opening. Spuntino is no exception. I made it there eventually, allowing me to join in with conversations once again, but until such time I was clinging on to the fringes, peering into the fellowship of London’s movers and shakers. Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s Soho Empire is growing at a phenomenal rate. Starting with Polpo on Beak Street, Polpetto soon appeared and followed now by Spuntino on Rupert Street. News has just been announced that da Polpo will open in Covent Garden. That’s four restaurants in twenty-months and all in the hippest regions of the West End. My lateness to such a grand opening was made up for by three visits in one week. For each outing I took a different companion. First, there was over an hours wait for a stool (not table) on a Friday night. We stood behind people on bar stools (there is nowhere else to wait) and had a beer, slowly working our way down the queue. There are only 26 seats, so you wait, watching those who are seated where you should be, laughing and ordering their plates. Spuntino has no telephone, so no reservations. It’s potluck, a timing thing. My second visit was early evening on a Tuesday and there were spaces available. My last visit, 6.30pm Thursday, and we’re back to waiting again. This time it’s an acceptable thirty-minutes and we’re seated at the bar and ordering within seconds. By this time I have a pretty good grasp of the menu and know what to go for and what not. The menu takes the same form as Polpo and Polpetto, with small tapas-style dishes ranging from squid in ink to softshell crab. Plates have crept up in price but most appear to be more substantial here than the other Norman/Beatty posts: aubergine fingers with a fennel yoghurt dip are deep-fried and crunchy and are an exciting find, while ‘egg and soldiers’ sees a boiled egg encased within a golden breadcrumb casing along with buttered bread ‘soldiers’ for dipping. During my first visit the yolk did not break and run wild across my plate (as I’d hoped), but all was corrected thereafter, both second and third visits (the fact I ordered across three visits is compliment enough), the glowing yellow yolk oozed from its casing, mopped greedily by thick bread slices. Softshell crab is another deep-fried creation, the wispy claws outreached and battered are served alongside a Tabasco aioli, while a creamy dish of ‘mac and cheese’ made from Parmesan, Mozzarella and Fontina had a richness that jolts you in surprise, I sent it down with a chilled Campari. Then another. The highlight was divided between ‘truffle egg toast’ and ‘peanut butter and jam sandwich’, two contrasting plates and each delicious beyond description. But cue a list of adjectives in an attempt to come close and have you salivating as you read while the Thesaurus burns in my hand and forfeits in exhaustion: a thick inch slice of fluffy white bread is the square upon which dripping and gooey Fontina cheese overspills, the bed for a soft-boiled egg yolk, a glowing centre like a small illuminating sun, and holding safely seven drops of pungent truffle oil. When presented in front of you it is a naughty treat, a decadent spoil. The truffle oil rises and enriches the senses causing a warm sweat. One must then, if possible, compose oneself for dessert and the ‘PBJ sandwich’, a cosmic creation encompassing all the brilliance of the American peanut butter jelly sandwich with peanut butter ice-cream and zingy berry jam, finished with a generous sprinkle of sugared peanuts. Presented as a sandwich triangle it is so utterly moreish that a second helping was ordered. This is a fun plate. A sweet plate. It’s a perfect representation of Spuntino, a carefully orchestrated yet playful creation. While there is grittiness to the decor (open brickwork and zinc bar), and X-rated activity outside, Spuntino remains current and rather charming. Ingredients are considered and executed, served to share and reminiscent of the Spanish tapas sharing plates at Polpo and Polpetto. Spuntino menu blends Italian dishes with classic Americanisms to form London’s unique ode to the transatlantic creations.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Grumbling Gourmet platinum reviewer 13 April 2011

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.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 21 March 2011

I love both Polpo and Polpetto, so was hardly likely to be entirely unbiased when it came to trying the third of the Russell Norman trilogy. And it is good. If anything, Spuntino is the best of the three so far. Like P&P it specialises in small, sharing plates. It has that same distressed feel about it that P&P both have, with old school enamel plates, mismatched tumblers and bare brickwork and lights, but is much airier than either of the P's. It is the atmosphere that sets it apart though: it is much more fun, much more upbeat. There is country/blues (old Johnny Cash, early Elvis, Blind Boys of Alabama, that sort of thing) playing over the sound system. There were tourists looking wide eyed and out of place alongside Soho locals and somebody who looked like Joe Ninety in an M&S cardie, modalising with a size zero, both slurping down each other and the mac & cheese. The no booking policy is going to grate. As is the service, which is relaxed to the point of forgetfulness. Being democratic, you get here and join the queue. You wait for a space (one table, otherwise a big U shaped bar, with place settings along it). Then you wait for the place setting of the departed person to be cleared (or, this being an American styled joint, the “deseated” person). Then you wait a bit more. Then you fend off some tourist trying to jump the queue. Then you just go and sit down in the place and let them clear it up for you. Not a problem for a late Saturday lunch, but at the height of a sitting, this could be bothersome. That said, the waiting staff are uniformly friendly, having got that whole baggy trousered look, with vast arrays of underwear and tattoos on display, down perfectly. Now I am not averse to the odd tattoo (and some of these were not only odd, but must have been really quite painful to apply), but I could do without so many stripped jocks being shown: even the aprons were tied below the buttline. The name Spuntino comes from the Italian for nibbles, and a spuntino of cayenne peppered popcorn was delivered with the water. Despite the name, however, the feel is very North American, with sliders (small buns, filled with “ground” meat) and grits, and the use of “zucchini” and “eggplant”, to describe courgettes and aubergines. Although I am not entirely sure that macaroni cheese could be described as quintessentially American. The eggplant came in the form of chips, coated in a light batter and served with fennel yoghurt. They were lovely. Crispy coated, soft middles and complementary. Yum. Truffled egg toast is a nice thick slab of bread, hollowed out in the centre for a truffle infused egg to be dropped in and then covered in cheese. Heaven. We tried a slider too, a “ground” (nay minced) beef and bone marrow, which comes in a sweetish bun with pickles. The softshell crab was one I was a little worried about trying. Not that I don’t like softshell crab, quite the contrary: I love the crunchy little fellas, but had been underwhelmed by Polpotto’s version. This was much better: light batter and Tabasco mayonnaise, atop a crunchy fennel salad. Very yum, and extra Tabasco on the counter (along with Coleman’s mustard, Heinz ketchup and an American non-mustard called French’s: the latter one best avoided) to add extra pep if needed. The only dish that didn’t really do it for me was the cheddar grits. I have had grits before, and never really been that impressed with them. I cannot say that I will try these again, although the cheddar gave them a much stronger flavour than if left plain: cheese tapioca as my companion described it. The wine list is short, but nearly everything comes by the bottle, carafe or glass. So we had a glass of prosecco whilst we waited for a seat (or rather “while”, in keeping with the whole American theme) and a carafe each of the Traminer and the Primitivo once seated. Then we had the zucchini pizzetta that they forgot (or, we suspect, gave to another table). We decided against the coffee (which comes drip only, American diner style), but with six plates, a prosecco each and two carafes, the bill came to just over £50. Then they added one of the carafes that we had to point out to them that they had forgotten to include on the bill. Did I mention that the service was a bit relaxed? Even when corrected, the bill is exceptionally good for this quality of food and wine in this area of town. Russell himself was eating here as we left, and he seemed to get good service. For this to be as good as it could be, he needs to ensure that everyone else does too.

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