Today we’re dining in cosy, candlelit Rustiko, a welcoming little restaurant in the heart of Soho. I love the buzz of Soho, packed with bars, restaurants, theatres and markets – and people enjoying them all.
First a bit of history. Soho was once farmland and only got its first building after the Great Fire of London in 1666 when the Earl of Leicester built a mansion there. It expanded towards the end of the 1600s to create more accommodation for a growing city. In the 1700s the area became a refuge for immigrants, over 40% of which were French and it was known as the French Quarter. There were plenty of Greek and Italian settlers, too – hence the existence of Greek Street and Bar Italia. So love London’s cosmopolitan-ness.
The area survived a cholera epidemic in the 1800s. Dr John Snow discovered it was in the water (most of the people who survived had been drinking beer instead of water) – and there’s a (very nice) pub named after him on Broadwick Street.
Soho grew to become a hub for music and concerts and is home to Ronnie Scott’s, one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs.
The sex industry has also been intrinsically linked to Soho – although it’s barely noticeable these days. In 1959 when prostitution was made illegal, trade boomed in Soho. Its bohemian character made it one of London’s most liberal areas. One that has always welcomed people from all walks of life and with all beliefs.
It’s all happened in Soho. From the tasty treats in Berwick Street market to the gay bars of Old Compton Street and the many hidden restaurants, Soho’s eclectic personality shines through. I love spending time here.
The food today at Rustiko is Italian with a nice range of small dishes (which they call pots and mugs), piattini, pizza and pasta and fish and meat dishes.
There’s a great cocktail list but I simply couldn’t resist a glass of Prosecco to start off with. Love a champagne saucer, I wish more bars served bubbles this way.
To start we shared a pot of crispy, piping hot whitebait served with a herby green mayonnaise. A substantial portion of fishy morsels perfectly cooked.
For mains our waiter recommended the chicken supreme as it is one of their signature dishes. Not one to order chicken in restaurant much, on seeing a plate of it passing by I decided to give it a go, it looked so tasty. It was served with roasted butternut, crispy curly kale and pesto. Wonderfully juicy and flavoursome chicken – and I am loving crispy kale at the moment, I’ve even been making it at home.
The sea bass fillet was grilled and served with winter vegetables, beetroot crisps and salsa verde. Another tasty plate of food topped with the crunch and pretty pinkness of the crisps.
I’m not much of a pudding eater but always find myself encouraging my companions to order dessert in Italian restaurants – I just love all those classics and can’t resist a spoonful (or two)! Today’s tiramisu came in a cute little jar and was mouth-watering.
This lovely little Italian eatery has a real intimacy and warmth, friendly service and tasty food at good-value prices. Perfect for a relaxed night out and the chance to absorb some of that unique Soho energy.
Today’s price point
Rustiko is really good value. Our dinner for two cost £38 not including wine.
A glass of Prosecco costs £8, cocktails are £9-£10 and wine starts from £20 a bottle.
Rustiko is at 37 Old Compton Street, London W1