I stepped on the scales yesterday – and hopped off them again pretty sharpish. I’ve been eating badly at home (comfort eating when I was sick with tonsillitis and focusing on lil’sis), and far too well outside it.
Although I took to the culture of eating out in New York like the proverbial duck, (I love the casual restaurant culture where eating out most nights is seen as perfectly normal, every restaurant has a bar, and sharing a couple of plates of appetisers from the menu on the way home at said bar is common), I missed the food in London. America’s excellent Mexican didn’t make up for good Vietnamese, Indian and new-ish British cooking. Manhattan is too fond of faux French bistros for my taste.
So of course since I’ve been back in London, I’ve been making up for lost eating time here with gusto. At the top of my list of new favourite London places, festooned with shiny gold stars are Polpo, Polpetto & now Spuntino.
Restaurateurs Russell Norman & his business partner Richard Beatty just get that what we want to eat now are small plates of deliciousness, containing immaculately sourced ingredients, simply put together and priced in a generous way that means London lunch with friends becomes a frequent pleasure not a gussied up, once a month experience.
Italian-inspired Polpo was the first (although it’s not like any Italian I’ve ever eaten in) – I was beside myself with glee when Mrs. Trefusis first took me there, and it’s been the site of many memorable meals since. I first met darling Tania Kindersley there (buy her book, for it is excellent) AND my Twitter friend Wzzy too when she and her husband were over from Los Angeles. Team LLG had a legendary meal there during LFW when we practically ate the entire menu, ferociously hungry after seeing so many slender models on the runway. The roast potatoes with rosemary , and the wild mushroom piadina may well be on my last supper menu. If they ever take them off the menu there will be trouble. There’s a restaurant bar out front where you can eat a full meal or just a few plates New-York style, and there’s a Campari den underneath the restaurant. Go, just go.
And then Polpetto opened up in the old French House Dining Rooms in Soho, in a first floor, light & airy room. With windows flung open, paper table cloths, and small plates arriving haphazardly, it’s a busy, buzzy, relaxed room & I eat here more often than I really should. The food is very similar to Polpo’s, so I can get my fix but feel as tho I am branching out. Sort of.
Spuntino is the latest opening, on Rupert Street cheek by jowl with the sex shops. It’s hard to spot: no sign, and inside there’s just a bar with diner stools, no tables. Punters have been known to try to walk on through looking for the restaurant proper. But this is it. Propped up at the bar, you can just order what you feel like on an ad hoc basis, (from a menu which departs from the Italian small plates of its siblings to give us Americana highlights), only stopping when you fear you might pop.
The mac n cheese is excellent – the product of extensive tasting trips to the US, I gather. I adore Spuntino: it’s exactly the kind of restaurant I do miss from New York, and never thought to find here. And the brilliant bit? The food is even better than that of its American counterparts. It’s all win in these parts.
Next up is Da Polpo, which opens next week in Covent Garden. Bloody clever Tara has secured us a table for grown up lunch sans enfants on Tuesday, the day before it officially opens. I shall report back.
(Disclaimer: I’ve eaten at Polpo & Polpetto so often that I now know Russell, and I lunched at Spuntino with his PR the other week. All my other meals at the restaurants were paid for, and I only came across the (lovely, equally food-obsessed) publicist because I had banged on about my love on Twitter many, many times.)