How many of you can say that you’ve found ‘the one’? You know, that one restaurant that you want to eat in for the rest of your life? Well I have; it’s called Rustiko. If you need me, you know where I’ll be.
Situated on Old Compton Street, Rustiko don't have much outside space to play with, but being cute buggers they managed to squeeze a couple of tables out front; a nice touch for sun-loving foodies who dream of alfresco drinking and dining. Unfortunately, you have to be on the ball to snag these seats but fear not, they have two floors with plenty of tables inside. Although the top floor is bright and airy, I’d recommend trying to get a table on the lower floor (that’s where all the atmosphere is).
This is also where the main bar is, which stocks a great variety of spirits that the bartenders use weekly to create their cocktail of the week. This independent restaurant emits a laid-back neighbourhood vibe thanks to countless Polaroid pictures behind the bar, colourful canvases and their neat selection of bar stools encouraging you to prop yourself up at the counter. Ultimately, it’s the kind of place you could rock into solo.
Think I'm finished talking about the venue? You better hold up, my friends. It might not be very noticeable, but this place has a winding set of stairs that lead to a secret basement bar called The Shed. Like they say, it’s all in the name, and that’s what this place is themed around; a cool homely backyard hangout. The ceiling is made from actual sheets of metal and comfy seats propped with cushions surround the immediate area. Bookshelves jammed with, you guessed it, books take up wall space and there’s a bit of greenery thrown in for good measure. If you’re searching for an unknown gem with a central location, baby this is it.
Rustiko is a quirky Italian restaurant nestled on one of London's most well-known streets.
Visiting Rustiko on a sunny evening meant one thing and one thing only: a strong Aperol Spritz. I usually swap and change my drinks no matter where I go, but their special Soho Spritz adaption (Aperol, Cynar, St. Germain Elderflower Liquor, Sweet Vermouth and Prosecco) was a dream. I had no choice but to stick by it throughout my entire meal. My partner in crime sampled the venue’s weekly cocktail special, which was a heady gin-based concoction with no name, but decided to revert back to her all-time favourite cocktail, the Negroni.
With great difficulty, I and my companion chose two starters from Rustiko’s glorious menu. The Baked Goat’s Cheese in a pistachio and walnut crust with baby spinach and honey mustard £5 was possibly the best goat’s cheese I’ve ever tasted; it had a lovely nutty aftertaste. Jess sampled the Smoked Scamorza and Parma Ham with rocket, roasted tomato, and balsamic glaze £7; holy cheese-us it was a smokey delight. Being here on a review, the manager insisted we try a bit of everything. The result? Three more starters served to our table. He recommended the Garlic Chilli Shrimp with garlic, chilli, and green mayo £5, the Chicken Croquettes - fried Red Potato and smoked chicken dumpling with parmesan and parsley £4 and finally? The Parmigiana - layered aubergine, mozzarella, and tomato with nutty pesto £6.
After leaving a good ol’ gap between our starters and mains (because we were so full) out came our dishes of choice; the Seabass (whole grilled sea bass with roasted mixed vegetables, veggie chips and salsa verde) £16 and the Calamari (whole grilled calamari with wilted leek, chorizo and sweet chilli and paprika sauce) £15. The seabass was cooked to perfection and opened up across a beautiful bed of perfectly seasoned veg while the chorizo perfectly complemented the calamari.
The Seabass at Rustiko is notably fresh and accompanied by well-seasoned veg.
The Clientele and Atmosphere
Soho is one of those lively London areas that you can’t help but fall for, and to my absolute delight Rustiko happens to be nestled here, and on one of its most famous and well-known streets. Arriving around 7pm on Wednesday evening, everyone in and outside were is in jolly spirits, mirroring the area’s positive attitude. Believe it or not, tables even mingled in some light conversation, which is not something you see everyday in big bad London. If you say hello to a stranger, or try engage in some banal weather-related chat they automatically think you’ve got undisclosed plans to steal the contents of their handbag/manbag.
Alongside the friendly, neighbourhood like atmosphere at Rustiko, the music really helped the evening along; it was current and high spirited. I know this might sound like an unimportant statement, but music really changes your mood, and Rustiko managed to hit the nail on the head in terms of atmosphere. Truth be told, I’d come back here for it alone.
Situated on Old Compton Street, Rustiko is one of those golden gems you come across, maybe, once in a London lifetime? It’s an Italian joint boasting a killer menu, one of the best I’ve seen in yonks and with a secret drinking den to smuggle you away from the bustling streets of Soho, it's a gold medal champion on the bar and restaurant scene.