Bare brick walls. Low-slung lights. Tattooed waiters. No reservations. Small plates.
Throw a stick in central London, and you’ll hit at least three restaurants which tick all of these boxes. But back 2009, they were quite the novelty. In fact, there was only one place doing them all – Polpo, in Soho. And Polpo was (largely) the work of one Russell Norman, a former English teacher who decided to try his hand at the resto game, and in doing so essentially helped to invent the modern dining scene.
Now, after a whirlwind decade in which he’s opened literally dozens of restaurants, and subsequently left the Polpo Group to strike out on his own once again, he’s doing the striking with Trattoria Brutto.
It’s set to open in Smithfield, in a quiet little cul-de-sac right opposite the market, this September. The name comes from an oft-heard Italian expression brutto ma buono (“ugly but good”), which essentially sums up the entire ethos of the place: it may not be pretty, but it will be bloody delicious. The vibe he’s aiming for is old-school Italian, with “conviviality, hospitality, and excellent ingredients” taking centre stage. It’ll be cosy, with room for eighty people seated, standing, at the bar, and on the now-critical terrace.
Of course, the most important part of all this is the food. And guess what? No small plates! If it’s going to be old-school Italian, it needs to be old-school Italian – that means antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci. It also means it won’t be expensive, either (“I hope you can get out of here for under £40 a head – full meal, wine, everything.” Norman promises). It’ll lean towards Tuscany without being stubborn about it, which means Florentine dishes like penne with tomato and vodka; wild boar sausage with lentils; and deep-fried doughballs.
You know, ugly but good.
NOTE: Trattoria Brutto is set to open on September 30th, with 50% off food until 2nd October. You can now book a table on the website HERE.
Trattoria Brutto | 36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross St, EC1M 6BN
Looking for outdoor dining ideas? Behold our list of (really good) places to eat outside in London