61 Rupert Street, Westminster, London W1D 7PW - no telephone number, no bookings
Through trial and not much error, founders of the Polpo family have found that perfect restaurant equation: convincingly aged urban interior plus inspired mini plates of food plus ballsy booze served up by the knowledgeable and good looking equalling out the door queues and minus the need for a reservation policy or even a phone for that matter. Months after the initial rave reviews from the London circuit’s most critical I tested out Spuntino’s staying power.
Prior warning of an early arrival from the aforementioned set us in a prime position smack bang in the middle of the bar, the sole dining area apart from a four seater in the alcove, and happily not heading up the steadily growing queue. I gazed across the table mat menu and spotted the signature truffled eggy bread and pb&j concoction, these were no brainer choices being faves of mine regardless of their reputation. Everything else was new and exciting grazing territory and sectioned up evenly, into twisted starters like stuffed and deep fried olives, and with The Burger having its moment in the limelight, a slider section and following the Americana footsteps mac and cheese featured as one of the larger plate and inventive sides like eggplant chips with fennel mayo. So all in all pretty spoilt for choice, so we ended up going for...
The slaw was the first to arrive and then joined by the infamous truffled egg. Sadly there was less sparkle about the dish than I had anticipated, perhaps partly due to everyone else across the bar were face to face with this same egg making it feel commonplace, this and something about the execution. Yes the yolk was seductively oozy, bread was porous yet fluffy making it ideal for dunking but the cheese was only mid melt, nowhere near the point where bubbling transforms into a subtle cheesy crunch. Although there can be no disputing a kitchen who conjures up the idea of luxurious egg and soldiers, it was merely a shame it was overhyped and not the best dish of the meal.
Another of the larger plates was the calamari in its ink and chickpeas which was superb. Simple and flash fried with a hint of chilli and smattering of spinach, the squid was sweet and sat harmoniously with its savoury ink. All of the above went well with the non dairy-fied slaw, more of a light pickle which was perfect for cutting through the rich flavours, particularly good with the sliders. We went for the bone marrow and beef and pulled pork and pickled apple, which were both tasty but a bit dry and if I were to be pernickety weren’t technically sliders which are supposed to be 2.5 inches in width, very thin with other components layered on top and gridled together.
My peanut butter and jelly sandwich arrived and I immediately thought that I wouldn’t be able to polish off such a beauty considering the richness, how much I had already consumed and the hearty portion I was now faced. Lo and behold the plate left me without even a dusting of the peanut brittle. Cast your mind back if you will, to last year’s disappointing posh PB &J from Per Se where the flavours were muddled in mediocrity and not distinctive of their namesake. Not the case here, there were three clear elements; the sandwich which was just like I would imagine eating frozen peanut butter would be, then rich berry compote spluttering out from the sides and a pleasingly hefty dusting of peanut brittle for those crunchy appreciators. My mum went for the strawberry and coconut mess with her bowl similarly leaving her cleaner than it would out of the pot wash.
Nothing beats an original. The head of the family will always be the leader and this is true with Familia Polpo. With so much expectation riding on the little brother to follow in such successful footsteps there is more evident room for error, albeit the case of a few extra seconds under the grill. I will be returning but next time I’ll go more off piste in my choices but I will maintain an early arrival as I am sure the hoards of the hungry will carry on frequenting.