Bristol review: Spuntino
13 September 2017
"Spuntino is almost like that rebellious teenager who won’t do what’s expected of it."
Jessica Carter goes all out with the guilty pleasures at this shipping container restaurant with a view...
As a sibling of Venetian-inspired joint Polpo , and with a similarly Italian name, Spuntino is almost like that rebellious teenager who won’t do what’s expected of it. Y’see, far from looking to quaint, rustic European hangouts for its lead like its big sister, this place is all about the fried, juicy, sauce-drenched grub of the Big Apple – albeit with a bit of a continental accent.
Housed within two adjoining shipping containers at Cargo 2, the restaurant has a long bar, lined with stools, while more seating comes in the form of tall communal tables and a few cosy booths tucked away in the back corner. Its cohesive and contemporary style is professionally put together (you can tell these guys are well- practiced in decking out premises), and the sliding glass doors lead out to more seating on the terrace that looks onto Wapping Wharf and the harbour.
The menu lends itself to a number of different scenarios. Before now I’ve visited just for a bottle of wine (it has good house varieties, as well as a decent cocktail list and collection of local beers) and a snack. Equally though, you could go all out with aperitifs and three courses. As I did on my most recent visit.
I say ‘three courses’, but this menu isn’t conventional like that – you won’t really find traditional starters and mains here. Instead there are snacks (pea and Parmesan crocchette, stuffed olives, bacon devilled eggs); sharers (truffle toast, lobster mac ’n’ cheese); burgers and hotdogs; and salads and sides. Make of it what you will; treat it all like small plates to share, or order a larger dish for yourself, slapping away any busy hands that get too close to your plate.
Tasty strips of crumbed, deep-fried aubergine (£3.80) have golden, crisp layers wrapped around their silky centres (which arrive with us super-freshly cooked and hotter than the sun – let them cool down before you tuck in).
The steak tartare (£8) from the specials board arrives second. Light in texture and taste, it features tangy chopped pickle that cuts through the richness of the well- seasoned meat. An egg yolk sits on the top, spilling its liquid centre into the mix, which we scoop up with the crisp slices of bread it was served with.
The Eagle Rock Dog (£7.50) looks deliciously excessive: the quality frankfurter is cosied up inside a fresh, shiny bun, and the whole lot is drenched with Russian dressing (that’s a mix of ketchup, mustard, egg yolk, spring onion, gherkin, Tabasco and Worcester sauce) before being finished off with more gherkin, shallot, and a good sprinkling of crushed crisps. The sausage’s signature smokiness isn’t overpowered, though, and joins that lot at the well- attended flavour party.
The burgers here are classic American- diner in style: think flat, well-cooked patties in grilled buns, with plenty of sauce. The Swiss cheese, chipotle and jalapeño number (£7.80) contains lean beef and fits comfortably in yer gob, without the fillings oozing out through your fingers.
From the sharing section, we tried the Bismarck pancake (£9). Deep and spongy in the centre, it’s served in the cast iron pan it’s cooked in, with its thin sides curling up around the edge to form a crisp crust. It’s filled with bite-sized pieces of buttermilk- fried chicken and drizzled in maple syrup, which brings both moisture and a hint of sweetness to the whole outfit (and creates a kind of sweet chilli scenario, coupled with the red flakes that are peppered on top).
Okay, in terms of colour, it’s easy to end up with a meal here that’s a bit fifty shades of beige. There are a couple of salads on offer, but that’s pretty much it in the way of greenery, and we didn’t order either. It’s more about good-quality guilty pleasures, it seems, and less about your five-a-day.
Desserts follow suit (obvs) with a fun peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich (£7), and a nicely subtle brown sugar cheesecake (£6.50).
To summarise: don’t go here if you want to pack in the veg and leave feeling nourished and virtuous. Go if you want a good drink, and decadent, diner-type feed. And go for the adaptable, social menu and the chilled, European-style vibe.