Spuntino, a Soho-born, Brooklyn-style diner, is up and running in the ultra-contemporary Cargo 2 at Wapping Wharf. Bea Martin investigates…
The way our bellies ached by the time we left Spuntino, we almost wished we could say we had, indeed, popped in for a light snack – as the new Wapping Wharf restaurant’s Italian name might suggest. But what would be the fun in that? And anyway, once we’d clocked the curiosity-piquing dishes on the menu, we were morally obliged – duty-bound – to try as many of them as we could physically accommodate.
Expecting the eatery to be as bijou as some of its well-established neighbours from the original Cargo collection, we were surprised to find a slightly larger five-shipping-container affair with an absolute suntrap of an outdoor terrace, once we’d ascended the steps to the upper level of Cargo’s second instalment and headed past the flickering neon sign on the sliding glass door. Inside, the place had the feel of a Prohibition-period American roadside restaurant, with pleasingly geometric mint-print walls, chequered flooring and wooden stools both beside the bar and tucked under tall communal dining benches.
Spuntino’s sunny exterior in the contemporary Cargo 2 complex
We were quickly and heartily welcomed by the dashing Norman Russell and his team – Russell being the London restaurateur responsible for the Venetian-inspired Polpo which popped up on Whiteladies Road last autumn. Given the calibre of his first, octopus-crested restaurant group, we’re excited to see him investing in Bristol for a second time via this attractive new tentacle.
Offered the drinks menu by down-to-earth Daisy – the friendliest and most helpful waitress we’ve been served by in a long while – my eyes were drawn to the typewritten cocktail menu, and in particular the Clover Club. With Beefeater Gin, lemon, raspberry syrup and fluffy egg white – these last two ingredients teaming up to create the taste and texture of a melted marshmallow – it made for a satisfying start for the sweet-toothed among us.
The marshmallowy Clover Club cocktail
Just as if I was, myself, an Italian New Yorker, I had of course, brought Mama. She played it chic with a beautiful northern Italian sauvignon blanc offering fresh notes of gooseberry and passion fruit, as well as an irresistible aroma, while I chomped, childlike, on popcorn sprinkled with chilli salt and served in one of those now-ubiquitous enamel cups.
While the team pride themselves on their range of bourbons, which help keep the place rooted to its concept, efforts have also been made to fit in nicely with the local craft ale scene via a selection of South West beers.
The chilli salt sprinkled popcorn was a fun twist on a childhood classic
Having ogled some of the foodie options on Spuntino’s social media feeds, we knew one thing for sure: we were most definitely trying the lobster mac and cheese. On Daisy’s advice, we decided to share this as a side; and while I tried to be somewhat sensible by opting for the mild-sounding spinach, ricotta and chickpea burger, Mama Martin ignored warnings of possible cheese overload and stuck to her guns with her choice of Swiss cheese burger with chipotle and jalapeño. This was perfectly spiced; the patty juicy and flavoursome and ideal when paired with our second side of fresh, crunchy Spuntino slaw – which came sans the sloppy mayo. Hallelu.
The Swiss cheeseburger with chipotle
The veggie burger was equally tasty, partly due to the dreamy pastel-green wild garlic aioli slathered within; but the star was undoubtedly the lobster mac. There’s a lot of mac on the market at the moment – with the humble home-comfort dish enjoying a bit of a boom thanks to trendy reinventions – but this was our favourite of all the versions we’ve stabbed a fork into recently. Topped with a delicate crumb and thoroughly enhanced by the flavour and texture of the seafood; while it could have done with a few extra pieces of lobster, Spuntino’s creation was surprisingly, deliciously light and devilishly moreish.
Despite the success of our first courses, we were gutted (no exaggeration) to have somehow overlooked the truffled egg toast on the menu – right up our street, that – and so delighted in finding that a recipe card for the very same dish stood on the table. Needless to say, we’ll be recreating it at home, stat.
Keen to take another bite of the Big Apple-inspired offering, we took a few deep breaths, unbuttoned – where waistbands were beginning to dig in – and perused the succinct dessert menu. Tricky choices ensued at the sight of the ‘Dutch baby’ – a variant on the pancake, with rhubarb jam – but we had already ordered the brown sugar cheesecake, and promised ourselves the PBJ, days before.
The latter, short for ‘peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich’, is a mouthful in both senses, and the stuff of circulatory system nightmares – in a good way. Although it was Mama’s heavenly cheesecake topped with juicy, boozy cherries, that stole all the thunder.
We left well past 8pm, with the sun still streaming in, and the sweeping views of the ships – docked along the sparkling harbour – utterly enviable. But no need to be wistful, hey; we’re heading back tomorrow for the bacon devilled eggs. Yep, you heard.