Tag Archives: Spuntino

Top 10 Meals of 2011

7 Jan

Ok, I admit it, I am the laziest blogger in the world. In 2011 I only recorded about 25% of my restaurant experiences which is ridiculous considering how good a culinary year it has been. So that is why I decided to make a new years resolution that in 2012 I will blog once a week. Although this is a resolution I will probably break (what are resolutions for if not for breaking?) I would like to last out for at least the first month, and as I only made this decision last night before I went to sleep I haven’t left myself much time to go through with it. So with the thought process that listing my top 10 meals of 2011 will mean just a few sentences I can probably snatch from old entries I have embarked on this task.

Of course, after assembling and reading through my list I have realised that I have only blogged about one restaurant out of the ten. More work and shame on me – I deserve it really. So with no delay, I present to you NAOMI’S TOP 10 MEALS OF 2011!

Numbers 10 to 4 in no particular order:

10. Spuntino

The long wait for a place to sit is almost unbearable once you know what is waiting on the other side – namely steak and eggs. It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is so great about this dish, but the fact that it is so incredibly simple yet delicious is something to consider. Incredibly cool but not so that it has pushed over onto the side of irritating and inaccessable. The Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich will BLOW YOUR MIND.

9. Honest Burgers

The best burger I have ever had in my life and I have eaten a lot of burgers. Mark and I went with a friend Sally and her daughter after Sally and I had run a 5k. We waited in line for a long time with rumbling bellies (it appears the best places make you do that these days) but it was completely and utterly worth the wait. We were all speechless as we tucked into beautifully pink beef, strong cheddar and a delicious and sweet onion relish. The chips were triple fried and tossed in herby salt. It was so good we all returned the next week, waited in an even longer queue but enjoyed our burgers all the more as they tasted even better.

8. Petrus

No one seemed to like Petrus when it reopened, but all the reviews did mention canapes and an amouse bouche and there is nothing I like more than extra food. I was sold already. In the end the really great thing about my experience at Petrus was how much of a delightful surprise it was. The vibe was special occassion casual – though I felt I was somewhere a bit swish I felt totally comfortable slumping in my chair to stretch my legs out and rub my swollen belly at the end of the meal. I had a starter of partridge ravioli with confit leg and mushroom veloute which was just plain beautiful. Silky is the key word to describe that course, in flavour, texture and appearance. Desserts were also brilliant, Mark’s in particular which looked like a piece of art. There was a thin slice of jelly where a cross section of cherries created a pattern of pursed lips. You may think I am speaking metaphorically, but I am not that imaginative. It actually looked like that. Our special petit fours were forgotten at the end of the meal so I asked the waitress if we would get any and with tact and friendliness she made us believe we had not been missed off but they were on their way and no more than 5 minutes later they were in our bellies.

7. Anthony’s

I paid my sister a visit in Leeds while she was studying at the university which obviously warranted a visit to Anthony’s – the Gordon Ramsay of the town. Attracted by the very cheap lunch menu we ate food that I would have been happy to pay three times the amount for. Liza had bream with a jamon sauce which was hearty yet refined, and I went down the traditionally boring route by ordering chicken, but the marvellous twist is that it was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten and also one of the most exciting dishes. Desserts sent us into raptures. Jasmine tea mousse with slithers of mango. Oh my days. On top of all this we got canapes, an amuse bouche, petit fours and a fluffy loaf of white bread with three different types of butter. All for just over twenty quid. I cannot reccommend this place enough. Everyone in the world go and if you don’t enjoy it you are the biggest fool in the land.

6. Pitt Cue Co

You know those times where you have something to eat be it a boiled egg or cheese on toast and it is more satisfying than a four michelin starred meal cooked by God? Yes well, the time I had wings from Pitt Cue Co definitely filled a hole that nothing else could fill. Hot spicy wings, cool slaw, ham hock salad, scorching hot day. Yes yes yes yes. My face was covered in hot sauce for the rest of the day which just served as a wonderful reminder to what I had eaten only hours before.

5. The Hardwick

Once Mark and I stayed in a Romany Gypsy caravan that just so happened to be in Wales. And because we just so happened to be there we visited some of Wales’ finest and also some of the not so finest (dodgy chinese one night when nowhere else was open and The Foxhunter). One night we had a tasting menu at The Crown at Whitebrook which was lovely but the portions were not tasting size, they were generous for even a full plate of food. I thought I was going to die at the end of it and I had to unzip my dress in the car park for the fear of fainting (nothing has ever felt that good since). The next day we went to The Hardwick for lunch despite still being full from the night before. We shared A Taste of Local Beef – Grilled Fillet, Ox Tail Suet Pudding, Burger with Creamed Mushrooms & Onion Rings, Braised Shin with Confit Shallots, Swiss Chard, Poached Carrots and Sauce Bordelaise, as well as a portion of triple cooked chips. You better believe everything was absolutely wonderful and the best taste of beef I’ve had in all my 24 years. It was a bitter sweet lunch as I was too full to eat as much as I wanted which meant I had to turn down pudding. Sob.

4. Mamuska

Mamuska is a polish restaurant in the heart of Elephant and Castle shopping centre. While everything is peeling and breaking away around it, Mamuska is comforting in that it is neat and not falling apart. When I first visited this restaurant I spent about £15 with Mark and we shared plates of pork dumplings, breaded chicken with mashed potato and carrot slaw, sauerkraut, borscht and pork croquette. It was heart warming, scrumptuous and much too much. It could have fed four people. That is why I love it so – unpretentious, authentic, finger licking food for under a fiver. The last time I went I visited it twice in a day and also found out that their shredded beetroot is something I will order on every subsequent visit. The diners are diverse, from polish to the local community to the trendy arty types from LCC and then of course me for as long as it exists.

So now all there is remaining is the final three. Again in no particular order, but they stand out from everywhere I have eaten at this year, and in my life come to think of it.

3. St John

I went here with Mark and Sally and Kim from work. It was one of those nights where the company and setting couldn’t have been more perfect. The bone marrow was everything I could have wished for and Kim’s stewed mutton with aioli gave everyone acute food envy. But nothing could beat the desire of the whole suckling pig being devoured by the stag party on the table next to ours. Sally’s dessert of eccles cake and lancashire cheese is now our tea time treat of choice. The noise level was loud and filled with happy chatter, understandably so. Sally went back a few weeks later to the bar and had some Welsh Rarebit and I was stuck at work when I got the good news via text. Mixed emotions of excitement and jealousy hit me and I did everything I could not to run out and join her.

2. Roganic

A couple of years ago Mark and I went to L’Enclume and had the best meal of our life. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard Simon Rogan was opening a pop up restaurant in London. I booked a table as soon as I was able but so had everyone else so I had to agree to a 9pm slot. Much like our meal at L’Enclume we had a tasting menu of wonder, like the plate of vintage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel that surprised with amazing flavours and textures despite it being a plate of potatoes. Mackeral with elderflower honey was also divine. We ended up being the last people to go and we chatted with the friendliest front of house team in the world, in particular Jack Settle who on top of being fun and charming, gave us a tour of the kitchen and gave us some leftover bread rolls for our journey home. We ate them for breakfast the next day with huge grins as we relived the night before.

1. Restaurant Sat Bains

I can’t say much about this meal as there is a full blog to come in a couple of weeks, but I can say that the few hours I spent at Restaurant Sat Bains were probably the most pleasurable of the year. After sampling Sat Bains’ wares at Fortnum & Mason earlier in the year and being suitably impressed and an upcoming trip to Nottingham in tow it was only natural that I had another try of what he had to offer. And the answer is SO MUCH. His care and attention to making sure we had a good time was thrilling and heartwarming, so much so that I do not resent spending an extra £15 on his famous duck egg dish which was worth every penny.

So there we go. Other notable mentions go to The Hand & Flowers which everyone knows is brilliant. Also the free meal at Hawksmoor where Mark and I sat next to and chatted away with people we had only just met while we ate steak and were filmed for a promo vid. Their stilton mayonnaise is beyond heavenly.

Well done 2011. Lets hope 2012 is even better.

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Spuntino

8 Jun

I was very excited when Spuntino opened. From the moment they first opened their doors, blogs were being updated left, right and centre filled with glowing reports and tantalising photos. One look at the truffled egg toast and I knew I had to go. So when Mark and I were walking around aimlessly after our three course meal at Alain Ducasse, there was only one thing on my mind – dinner at Spuntino. All it took was a three-hour stroll around Soho to marginally open the hunger gates and before we knew it we were waiting patiently for a table. In all honesty I wasn’t that hungry, but when the opportunity is there at the end of an hours wait for a seat, one would be foolish not to sit down.

Spuntino takes no reservations and seats are few so the only way to secure a bite is to wait for as long as it takes. I spent most of my teen years obsessing over the Lord of the Rings which often involved standing around for hours in the cold to catch a glimpse of the cast, so an estimated hour and a half wait meant nothing to me. Luckily for us, some people do not posses the same gift of patience as I and they left within minutes bringing us closer to the front of the queue. Before we knew it (20 minutes later) we were sat at the bar with a complimentary portion of eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt! I don’t even like aubergine, but there I was, devouring the lot. Forever a fan of the amuse bouche/canapés/extra free food, it couldn’t get much better than this.

Our stomachs ordered us not to push our luck so we ordered a modest four dishes. Food arrived thick and fast and our small bar space was soon taken over by plates of wonderful looking American tapas.

The Truffled Egg Toast was the first to catch my eye – cheese dripping off the side of the bread, the circle of yolk in the middle like the sun, radiating rich smells of truffle oil. I could taste it and experience the textures before I had even tried it.As reality would have it, it was a bit cold. And because of this it was all a bit chewy. The cheese had lost its ooze and the toast was not as much crisp as it was soggy. The sacred ceremony of cutting into the yolk had a rather poor result as only a few drops of orange dripped onto the plate. I have a feeling I caught this particular dish on a bad day, so I do not want to write it off as something not worth trying. Go for it, I might do so again one day.

Much more successful was the Softshell Crab with Aioli. I could eat anything dipped in aioli, a stapler for example, but it really is something special when the dippee is perfectly tasty without said garlicky magic. The flavours were fresh, making the whole dish incredibly easy to eat.

The beef and bone marrow slider was another winner. Small brioche bun, rich and almost creamy meat, the compulsory layer of melted cheese… I could have done with a big version of this, unfortunately sharing with the other half meant that I only had two bites.

Though our order was relatively small, my painfully swollen belly cursed my masochistic appetite, but I was not done yet. “Thinking of having a pudding? There is no thinking to do – Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich” the waiter told us. My appetite was charmed by his wit and before my belly could clog on to what I was doing, I had taken his advice. And what advice that was.

Two layers of peanut butter parfait cemented together with raspberry coulis and topped with crumbs of sugared peanut. I don’t think I have ever eaten anything with as perfect a combination of flavours and textures than this dessert. The parfait was both salty and sweet as well as creamy on the tongue, and the coulis sliced through with zingy fruit pang and sticky finish, not forgetting the surprise crunch from the scattered peanut brittle. Though bursting at the seams, my stomach forgave me.

This would usually be the point where I would conclude my blog entry with a few pithy sentences about the great time I had. However, I found myself a few weeks later wandering through Soho after a Wayne’s World shwing-along desperately looking for a bite to eat. All that head banging and air guitaring unearthed my masochistic appetite, and like a magnet I was drawn back to Spuntino with the idea of ordering completely different dishes but to end with the same sublime pud. And so my adventure continues.

Complimentary cup of popcorn covered in chilli oil started us off this time. Bit greasy and not as exciting or substantial as the eggplant chips, but it was in my brief of eating only the untried. Our first plate was another dabble with egg, this time in the form of a sesame crusted egg with toast. A boiled egg and soldiers is a classic for a reason, though Spuntino’s version wasn’t much more than that. If even I can make it at home, I don’t think it is worth spending money on.

Our slider of the day was salt beef with gherkin. There was a lot of meat and a good layer of schnoz burning English mustard. Nice, but nothing beats Gabby’s in Leicester Square for salted cow.

No, the real winners of this round were the steak with eggs coupled with shoe string fries. This, my friend, tops the PB&J Sandwich.

“I am not sure why this is so good, but it is” Mark said. I am not sure either, how something so simple can be so delicious. I used the shoe string fries to dip in the runny yolk and then to mop up the remaining meaty juices once I had finished. I know that I am going to return to Spuntino many times over so that I can scream “BINGO” once I have tried every single dish, but I also know that I will not be able to resist ordering this every single time.

We had a bowl of grits on the side which Mark rejected after a couple of mouthfuls, but I finished the lot, finding the texture utterly comforting that only a cuddle with my old teddy bear could inspire. I wouldn’t mind ordering that again too.

Of course we finished with the dessert we planned to finish with and of course we enjoyed it. I might order the liquorice ice cream with pineapple carpaccio next time instead. I will probably not enjoy it as much, but you live and learn. And if I am to live and learn I may as well do it at Spuntino.

 

Spuntino
61 Rupert Street, London, W1D 7PW
http://www.spuntino.co.uk/