Tom roadtests Spiga

I was pleased to have an opportunity to check out Spiga, the new Italian restaurant on Broadhurst Gardens, especially having drunkenly glanced at the menu in advance via Jonathan’s pre-opening photo exclusive, and seen various things I immediately felt an urgent, pressing need to eat.

In terms of “barometers of quality”, bread, olives, and house wine are all good indicators, and we got off to a flying start on all three counts. There was a standard white bread, a rosemary focaccia, and two varieties of “giant crisps” – one pleasingly oily, the other drier, like a poppadom. And big, proud triangles of butter too! The olives were wonderful, in a garlicy oil, the green ones vibrant in colour – luminous almost (v. useful in a power cut).

The house red, a Sangiovese and Merlot blend, went down very easily indeed, earthy soft tannins and not lacking a finish. In hindsight we should have ordered a second bottle, to test its hangover rating. Next time.

To start off the fun I tried the asparagus with poached organic egg and parmesan shavings. Here, I do think a touch of first night nerves were in evidence, with the egg being rather too…errm…soft – the yolk not quite turning from watery to oozing yellowy. However the asparagus was marvellous; giant-size spears and cooked delicately. The dish perhaps needed a pinch of salt, but very enjoyable.

Somehow managing not to overdose on the aforementioned bread, next up was my grilled tuna steak on rocket and mixed peppers, with a sweet and sour balsamic. It’s a combination I’ve had at Base on Baker Street in the past, and was very well executed. The tuna respectfully done; not overcooked, and the balsamic (something I’m not usually mad about) tastefully judged. Just from a personal angle, I’d prefer something a little less sweet, and firmer in texture than the slithery little peppers; perhaps some semi-dried tomatoes? Accompanying my generous tuna was a side of hand-cut chips, and in another pointer to a chef who knows what he’s doing, these were excellent; old-style in size (i.e. not big, fat wedges – not that I dislike those, obviously!) and with a pleasing exterior and a dash of salt. Overall then, a splendid, satisfying main course.

I’m babbling on a bit more than usual (and this is without a drink in hand), but dessert warrants a few details too; a chocolate torte with mascarpone and strawberries – a very generous slice – was delicious. The texture of the pastry was bang-on, with a thick, gooey swamp of dark chocolate on top.

As Jonathan reported, the charming Sandra was all too pleased to chat and tell us a little about their venture, and there was a feeling of combined warmth and confidence in the service, which added to the occasion.

All in all then, a very welcome addition to the local selection of eateries, and I won’t be leaving it too long before heading back there to try the gnocchi… and another slice of the chocolate torte too no doubt.

Welcome, Spiga!