Somewhere in Soho, opposite a sex shop, is a battered up place with a big old door. Through the door is a beautifully battered up room with a big old bar – filled with Johnny Cash, popcorn air and first week nerves.
Arriving straight from work, through the door just after seven, we wait twenty minutes for a space at the counter. Two beers each and some house pickles ease us in, the complimentary aubergine chips never get to us.
Perched at the end of the bar you get a view of every diner, faces illuminated by the industrial lanterns hanging before them. The menu is short, clear and laid out on the placemat. Resisting the temptation to order everything on it is difficult.
Rosemary salted popcorn arrives with a neat carafe of water. House wine (Polpo Merlot) is good, as is an old fashioned – prepared by our bartender as we decide.
Just down the bar Trinny or Susannah is on the soon to be famous kissing stool, plates of gorgeous food clutter the bar, food envy builds.
In a selfish moment it seems a shame that such an atmospheric room, with such beautiful painted barstaff, all sleeved in needlescript thorns, will always be full of people. Never will I sit at this bar, alone with a Negroni. That pleasure, I guess, is a treat reserved for Russell when all the punters have gone.
At this point I must apologise. The light and the atmosphere in Spuntino is not condusive to photography. I papped what arrived with my iPhone but the images don’t go close to doing the food justice. Half way through our meal the lights were dimmed to an extent that Russell Norman, doing the rounds front of house, called for a torch so that guests could read the menu.
Sliders – one of beef and bone marrow one of spiced mackerel – were a revelation. The worlds best meatball slicked with melted cheese, gloriously pink through, and hugged by pickles in the softest of rolls.
Greens were less exciting, although a salty wave of anchovy and peppery olive oil meant that none was left in the dish. For me, at £5 this was the only thing not really worth it’s money all evening.
Mac & Cheese, served in the skillet was rich and cheesey with a satisfying kick of mustard. The topping in that special place, very crunchy but far from dry.
We also ordered cheddar cheese grits, which were grits flavoured with very good cheddar cheese. No messing, no fussing – comfort food with two spoons.
The star of the savoury show was left until last. Spuntino’s truffled egg on toast is life affirming food. It’s simple yet playful. It tastes so damn good. A serving of this and a couple of beef and marrow sliders every day for the rest of my life would make me a very fat, but very happy, man.
Leaving space for pudding here is a difficult but worthwhile skill. Forego the extra grits or the second round of sliders because the sweets are where it’s at. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich is inspired, it’s got all the other bloggers talking too, the finest ice cream sandwich you’ll ever eat. The peanut butter smooth and creamy, refreshingly clean on your palate, not a blob of sticky roof syndrome. I tried it, I looked at Tom, he tried it. “Fuck that’s good and I don’t even like peanut butter”- we demolished the rest.
With 500ml of wine, 4 beers, an old fashioned, a load of food, service, and a truly mesmeric desert the bill game to a staggeringly low £60 including service. It felt like we’d robbed them. On later reflection we probably had, I checked the bill this morning and the wine and cocktails weren’t on it, my hangover tells me they should be.
Spuntino isn’t in Croydon. There is nowhere like this in Croydon. There is nowhere like this in the world, except maybe, in New York.
The nitty gritty:
YP Day travel card: £5.30
Meal at Spuntino with Wine, beers, and service: £60
Beer at Sam Smiths pub round the corner: £2.30
Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street.
No reservations, no telephone, no real website to speak of.