Friday night, my friend and I went to have dinner at Rustiko in Soho. Finding the bar through busy streets filled with tourists from all over the world was not too difficult and we were greeted warmly upon entry in the bar/restaurant. Situated in a very tourist focused area, Rustiko could have chosen to be another chain restaurant serving to the masses. Instead, they have opted to create an intimate and quaint Italian restaurant, which is very rustic by name as in nature.
We started with a Seasonal Bellini (Beefeater 24, in house seasonal fruit puree, citrus, salt, prosecco- £9) and a Billy Bunter cocktail (wild strawberry vermouth, vino sherry, elderflower and cucumber- £9) for my friend as we perused the menu. The drinks were an enchanting start to the meal, well priced and hit the spot after a hard day at work for the both of us.
Our starters to share of Fritte (twice cooked potato chips – £3), Garlic Chilli Shrimp (with garlic, parsley and green mayo – £ 5), Smoked Scamorza and Parma Ham (with rocket, roasted tomato and balsamic glaze – £7) and Hummus (homemade hummus with tahini paste, chickpeas and lemon juice – £ were divine. I’m so glad our server recommended the Smoked Scamorza! It was a revelation. The melted Scamorza Cheese with the saltiness of the ham was to die for! The Garlic Chilli Shrimp was lovely as well, despite being messy to eat. As both my friend and I are Australian, we are bit biased when it comes to seafood so we both would have loved bigger prawns. However, we couldn’t complain about the serving size of the shrimp as it was a small buckets worth and they were very easy to peel.
Choosing our mains was a task as everything on the menu sounded amazing and our eyes wandered to other diner’s tables to try spy on what everyone else was ordering. We finally settled on the Gnocchi (potato dumpling with mozzarella, mascarpone, sundried tomato and herbs – £10) and Amatriciana (rigatoni with pancetta, onions, tomato sauce, parmesan and parsley – £11). While waiting for our food to arrive we ordered another couple of cocktails to keep our hunger at bay as wafts of delicious smelling food came from the kitchen. We weren’t disappointed with our choice of the Madame No. 2 (madam gin, apricot liqueur, Campari, soda – £9) and the Perfect Storm (skipper rum, plum bitters, lime juice and ginger beer – £9).
As my friend and I took our first mouthfuls of our mains, we knew we’d made the right decision with our dishes. The flavours of the cheeses mixed with the sundried tomatoes of my gnocchi were a perfect balance. Each fresh ingredient did not over power each other and the gnocchi melted in your mouth as I believe it should. My friend’s Amatriciana was also just as mind-blowing. There was an ingredient in this dish that just gave it that something extra, yet we just couldn’t put our fingers on what it was. We both just decided that it had to be the fact that the chef was a genius, coupled with his use of fresh ingredients in traditional Italian recipes that made this dish a winner.
Usually after a starter and a pasta dish, I’m too full to enjoy dessert but this wasn’t going to stop me from ordering the Cannoli (light pastry biscuit with ricotta, chocolate chips and candied orange – £4). Having never eaten Cannoli before, my friend opted for the same. I won’t repeat the words she uttered as she took her first bite of this creamy morsel of perfection as they weren’t exactly PG but to summarise, she was a fan.
It was surprising to learn that Rustiko has only been open since November 2015, so is a relatively new bar/restaurant. The entire venue just felt warm and if I didn’t know better I would have assumed Rustiko was a family run restaurant that had been a staple in the Soho district for many years. Make sure you head down to Rustiko for dinner if you’re looking to get away from the chain restaurants and not leave with your wallet feeling much lighter than when you entered. Rustiko is also opening a new bar under the restaurant called the Shed in the near future, so that is something to keep an eye out for.
Reporter: Tegan LeBon ¦ @toogs1
37 Old Compton St.
London W1D 5JY