28/7/21 - updated with full details
Since leaving the Polpo group, Russell Norman has been busy writing but we've all been wondering when he would make his return to restaurants. Well now we know - he's opening Trattoria Brutto. That comes from the phrase "brutto ma buono" meaning Ugly but good.
It'll be taking over a space with a bit of history. Brutto will be opening in Farringdon - taken over what was once the Hix Oyster and Chop House (and also just around the corner from the ex Polpo Smithfield location).
If you're unfamiliar with the restaurateur, he was the driving force behind the Polpo group of restaurants. The original in Soho was a proper game-changer for the market, focused on a no-reservation pack-em-in ethos and a menu of small Italian plates. The restaurant was an instant hit and London's not-so-brief "encounter" with restaurant queues had begun. Huge spin-off hits Spuntino and Polpetto arrived soon after.
The restaurant is billed as a "tribute to the dining rooms of urban Tuscany" with Florence and Siena the big focus. We can also look forward to "the warm amber glow of low wattage bulbs and candlelight" but hopefully we won't have to get out the "torch of shame" to read the menu as in Spuntino.
In charge of the kitchen is Oliver Diver, who started out at the Soho Polpo, then Wild Honey, Chiltern Firehouse, a brief stop in Melbourne and most recently senior sous at Allegra. He'll be touring Florence with Russell for menu inspiration, but dishes planned so far include vitello tonnato, panzanella, chicken liver toasts, lamb chops al cartoccio and pappardelle with wild boar. Alongside that will be peposo (beef stew), rosemary flatbread with broad bean purée, lampredotto (spicy tripe in a crusty panino) and salads made tableside from Natoora produce. Apparently, Russell himself will be in the kitchen from time to time too.
It'll be an all-day restaurant, starting with coffee and pastries at 8am, with lunchtime sandwiches too. And as for the wine list, we're told we can expect "old-world European wines combining cult classics with smaller producers will total 100 labels, including some larger formats and rare vintages."
It'll definitely be one of the top openings this Autumn.
More about Trattoria Brutto
Where is it? 36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross St, London EC1M 6BN
When does it open? September 2021
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