London is in the midst of a ‘small plates’ revolution, and we couldn’t be happier about it. I mean, why have one dish when you can have five? That’s certainly the sentiment at Rustiko, the quirky Italian tapas joint famed for their ‘pots & mugs’ plates, from classic bruschetta with not so classic Calabrian spicy pork pâté, to Arancini balls, fresh fish dishes and Italian cheese and meats. We jumped on the culinary bandwagon and headed to Soho for dinner…
Rustiko has a prime spot on Old Compton Street, nestled in between Soho’s many bars and eateries. The interior is rustic in style (duh), with exposed brick walls, bar stools, intimate two-person, candle-lit tables, and breezy floor to ceiling open windows that let you watch the world go by. There’s a spiral staircase which leads up to another bar, with cosy sofas and quirky furnishings, ideal for a post dinner drink. We arrived on a wonderfully warm summer’s evening, so took one of the two outside tables.
Unless you are particularly ravenous I wouldn’t advise getting small plates and a main, but Kal, the Manager, insisted we tried everything. And I wasn’t complaining.
There’s not many small plates that really lend themselves to sharing, but we were pleasantly surprised at the portion sizes. The food was all fantastic so I’m going to forgo adjectives where I can. We started with the garlic chilli shrimp, which were cooked in garlic, chilli and parsley and ready to eat with the skin on, (huge thumbs up from me); the smoked scamorza and parma ham (one of my favourite dishes, see the picture at the top of the screen), which was meaty and rich with rocket, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze; and the Arancini balls, which came with a Bolognese sauce, mozzarella cheese and peas.
Their creative twists to Italian classics extends to the cocktail menu, with examples such as the Soho Spritz, with elderflower liqueur and sweet vermouth alongside traditional Aperol and prosecco, and The Sharks Tooth, which is a sweet and sour mix of tequila, Velvet Falernum, sherbet and homemade grapefruit and lime juice.
Our mains arrived as we were enjoying the cocktails: whole grilled calamari with fiery chorizo, leeks and a sweet chilli and paprika sauce, and chicken supreme, with roasted butternut squash, crispy sweet kale, cherry tomatoes and a rich, nutty pesto. The food was faultless, as was the service, the drinks and the atmosphere - I will no longer be satisfied with a simple one-plate dinner!
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