Spuntino – Spectacular rose, but gruesome grits!

16 Sep

Spuntino is so hot with the Soho crowd, people are queuing for seats as its counter and solitary booth before 6pm.  But it’s puzzling they can get decent pink wine right, when most lists fail to do justice to rose, yet some of the basics utterly wrong.

Take grits, for example – a great thing to see on the menu of any restaurant claiming to purvey the best of American classics.  One of the USA’s finest regional dishes is shrimp’n’grits, as served in the Carolinas – but they are a far cry from the grits served with sausages and cheese at Spuntino.  It’s not that grits don’t go with sausage, it’s just that there’s no point featuring grits unless you are going to start with good ones rather than the “genuine Quaker” instant variety our server so proudly told us we were getting.  The only grits worth eating are stone-ground, easy to find in US whole-food stores, and they are as different from the insipid white variety as steel cut oats from instant porridge.

Spuntino does best when it sticks to the kind of Italian-inspired fare served at its sister, Polpetto – like wonderfully crispy pizzettas, here topped with finely sliced zucchini and mint – and truly eclectic dishes like the truffled egg toast which has become its signature.   Imagine a doorstop of white bread with runny egg at the centre, judiciously scented with truffle(no sledgehammer overdose here, thank goodness) and the edges running with melted cheese; possibly the yummiest snack in London for £6.

The pink wine also derives from the owners’ expertise with Italian wine – it’s a rosato Bardolino Monte del Fra 2010.  Not cheap at £9 a glass, but fruitily dry and delicious.   Shame about the tumbler, which like the chipped enamel mug my delicious coffee came in, did nothing to enhance the contents.  But grunge seems to be part of the Spuntino/Polpetto ethic, more’s the shame.

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