No sign of first night nerves at Spiga

Last night Tom and I decided it was Our Duty to check out Broadhurst Garden’s newest restaurant, Spiga. It was opening night so I wasn’t really expecting to review it as there were bound to be first night issues and it’s not really fair to give a definitive verdict on such an occasion.

As it was, our meal was verging on faultless. From a friendly welcome from front-of-house manager Marcello through to the cheery goodbyes a couple of hours later, it was refreshingly hard to find much room for improvement. The menu looks appealing, and there’s a set menu tucked away on the back page that has an early bird price option before 7pm. An interesting selection of bread appeared swiftly and we were assured it was made on the premises. While we struggled to choose from the tempting menu we ordered some stop-gap olives, which were not the usual dull overly-marinated selection beloved of so many restaurants, but a nice handful of vibrant green and black juicy monsters.

Tom will, no doubt, post his own review, so I’ll focus on my meal. I had carpaccio di polipo (octopus) as a starter. This was good, although not as good as I’ve had in Italy. I like the slices even thinner and a slightly spikier dressing, although that’s not to say this wasn’t enjoyable. It was served with a few more olives, and a rocket and potato salad. A good start.

Main course was rack of lamb. This was a very generous portion – a rack and a half of perfectly cooked meat. I’ve had lamb with more flavour before, but rarely as well cooked – certainly not in restaurants at this price level. The lamb had a Grissini crust, and this was the only element of the dish I was less keen on – too thick for me and I could see no benefit in it compared to a traditional herbed breadcrumb crust. It’s not on the menu, but main courses are all served with a pea and onion side – sort of like a stew and perhaps cooked in ham stock (vegetarians would want to check)? Sounds odd, tasted great – and again very generous portions.

We’d merrily drunk our way through a bottle of house red – a Sangiovese/Merlot blend that was better than I expected for £12.95. The wine list isn’t that extensive, but does befit the vibe of the restaurant. Those that remember the Green Room will recall the rather glossy boudoir look it had. Spiga has gone for a slightly retro 70s look, but it feels modern and welcoming. No red & white checked trattoria tablecloths to be found. I do think the lighting could be dimmer if it’s looking to create a more romantic atmosphere.

At this point, Sandra Royer, the French wife of one of the two Albanian brothers who own Spiga and are the chefs, came over to say hello and we felt it was only reasonable to reveal who we were. It turned out she was already an avid reader and fan of Tom’s Diner. That boy will go far! She explained that they’d hoped to open a bit sooner but some admin issues, delivery hold-ups, and a minor flood downstairs had pushed them back. It was good to see that we weren’t the only diners that evening, and although some punters clearly knew the owners there were others like us checking the place out (and we all stared intently at each other’s food).

Sandra told us that most of the food is sourced from Italy, so it is clearly going for the authentic angle. I was surprised to hear this was their first restaurant venture, although her husband has been a chef elsewhere – this was certainly no novice in the kitchen.

Tom grappled manfully with a large slice of chocolate torte and we both indulged in a grappa. We were joined by @moyasarner who saw us as she walked past and was immediately offered a basket of bread and a drink.

I was impressed with the service – friendly and professional throughout, even though the junior waitress was clearly a little nervous and made a couple of minor mistakes, which I heard Marcello pick her up on quietly afterwards.

The mark of a good restaurant is consistency. If Spiga can keep delivering the sort of food and experience that we enjoyed then it will do well. In ambience and menu it has kept itself suitably different from very close neighbour Sarracino and while I always found the Green Room to be style over substance, I think Spiga marries the two rather well.

Spiga
182 Broadhurst Gardens
020 7372 8188
(website still under development!)

If you go, do leave comments below.

  • Ana

    Good to read your review. To me, it sounds like it could be a a lot better than Sarrancino's. Just one remark, Sandra told me the Chef, her husband, is Albanian (I told her about your blog).

    Thanks Jon

  • Tom O’Ghoulery

    Just remembered those remarkably tall, elegant menus – those got things off to an encouraging start before we'd even munched an olive!

  • Christina

    Another point worth mentioning – Spiga is actually owned by 2 brothers and both are chefs there

  • Vincenzo

    Yes it's a well known fact in the area that the new owners and chefs of Spiga are to brothers Altin and Sokol Balla.

  • WHampstead

    Blimey – the issue of ownership is clearly a sensitive one. Not entirely sure how well known a fact it is in the area, but anyway… I've amended the text above to reflect the situation

  • Anonymous

    Delicious authentic Italian food. Can't wait to go back again. Enjoyed every dish I ordered, especially the grissini crusted rack of lamb. Great service.

  • Anonymous

    just ate here. seriously poor, really disapointed due to the comments made here. the food was just, average. maybe an off night but the extremely slow service didnt help either.

  • WHampstead

    Shame your experience was so disappointing. We're going there next week for a full review, so hopefully that'll be a good test

  • I have eaten here three times now, and each time has been really excellent, and great value. First visit was as a couple in the evening, suitable dimmed lighting without being cheesy. Next two visits were with the kids, who were looked after like royalty. Each time the service has been 110%.
    OK, so dishes I’ve favourited…
    The bread basket – fab thin crunchy bread… I need this recipe!

    Caprino con peperoni arrostti e balsamico
    Fried goat’s cheese, roasted mixed peppers, spinach and aged balsamic sauce. £5.20
    There must be £5 of ingredients in this, I don’t know how they make money. Thick slab of tangy cheese, beautifully presented and dressed.

    Tagliere D’afettati con carciofi e scamorza £5.90
    Wood-platter of Italian cured meats and cold cuts with artichokes. BIG portion, enough to share.

    GNOCCHI di patate al pesto di basilico £5.80
    Fresh potato dumpling with basil pesto, pine kernels and green beans.
    I normally hate Gnocchi (I thought!), but this was superb, oodles of flavour, and now an all-time favourite.

    Ravioli di vitello con burro e salvia £6.20
    Home-made pasta parcels filled with roast veal,
    tossed in butter and sage.
    I don’t normally order pasta when out, but this was one of the best dishes I’ve had anywhere, and ordered each time. Real “Le Manoir” quality. The buttery sauce is gorgeous, and works so well with the delicate veal parcels. The chef owners make all the pasta downstairs during the day, so it’s as fresh as it gets.

    FEGATO DI VITELLO al Marsala con spinaci saltati £10.90
    Pan-fried calf ’s liver with sultanas, toasted pine kernels, in Marsala wine sauce.
    Not many restaurants can do this well, and many overcook the liver. I actually asked for this to come with bacon, so they happily served it with crunchy pancetta. Really good.

    Misto di pesce alla griglia servito con misticanza all’olio e limone £14.90
    Grilled seasonal mixed fish served with an olive oil and lemon dressed baby leaf salad.
    I love to eat dishes that I don’t cook at home, and this is a great example, as it would be too much like hard work to choose all the different fish and then cook them perfectly. And it would probably cost the same!
    This was lovely on the eye and on the tongue. fresh tastes, and perfectly cooked, with all the fish sourced from a local WH fishmonger.

    PANNACOTTA con coulis al mango £4.20
    Vanilla ‘Pannacotta” and mango coulis.
    A pudding that I wouldn’t normally order as it’s a bit of a cliché, but this was heaven on a plate. Worst part about it… I’d said we’d share – bad move. Be selfish, order your own, it’s too yummy to give up!

    CRÈME BRULEE con frutti di bosco £4.20
    One of the best I’ve eaten.

    This may be a new venture for the owners, but there is real consistency and quality, so long may they continue!

  • Kaori

    My husband and I had dinner at Spica last Friday. We were the first customers at that night and we were nicely welcomed. Although the menu were quite reasonable price, we decided to go for the set menu 2 courses for £10, 3 courses for £13. We had aubergine parmigiana and sauteed mushroom as starters which didn’t disappoint us. Then we had sage ravioli for main which was excellent. The portion seemed small but it filled us up. Since two courses made us happy, we couldn’t resist what the puddings are like. We had creme caramel and apple tarte tatin. They were again lovely and made our night complete. It was really nice to find a small and cozy restaurant near our house.