Sunday, 18 May 2014

Rotorino: west meets east

Rotorino: Buffalo mozzarella, smashed broad beans, mint
I don't often find myself in East London these days and it generally takes a bit to convince me that the hour travel is worth it. Don't get me wrong, I watch the constant string of restaurant openings with a tinge of jealousy and a mental note for the "must visit one day" list which is ever-lengthening, but then remind myself why I moved west and enjoy the relative quiet of my leafy street rather than the smog and grit of the Kingsland Road. Anyway, a sudden craving for bread from Fabrique after a recent trip to Sweden, et voilà I'm back in the thick of it. Rotorino has a decent pedigree with Stevie Parle from the Dock Kitchen (and time at the River Cafe - hooray for West London!) behind the food, which has a Southern Italian bent to it. Think of great ingredients with a light touch and you're pretty much there.

We ordered four dishes from the menu which is split into sections with headings like First, Second, Third, Stove and Sweet. With prices per dish well below the £10 mark, the menu structure is perhaps a little confusing, implying that you'll need at least three dishes each, with the option of something sweet or cheese (under another heading) to round out a meal. The four dishes we had were enough for a light lunch for two, with the total bill, including an espresso but no other drinks, coming to a reasonable £33. The wine list looked interesting, with enough price points to suit many budgets.
Rotorino: pork and veal meatballs with tomato sauce
The dishes all came out together and I tucked into the Buffalo mozzarella with smashed broad beans and mint first. The texture of the dish was great, with the broad beans mashed into interesting chunky mouthfuls contrasting nicely with the creamy mozza. A lovely fruity olive oil and a shake of chilli added some depth to the dish. I liked the addition of the fresh broad bean pod - we popped out the contents and munched on those too. Ah Spring!
Rotorino: pea gnudi with buffalo ricotta, peas, crispy sage, parmesan and butter
The pork and veal meatballs in tomato sauce were intensely porky, kind of overshadowing any delicate flavour of the veal. The texture of the meatballs was good though, with the mince not too fine. The tomato sauce had a nice sharp tang, tempering the rich balls. I liked the pea gnudi with buffalo ricotta, peas, crispy sage, parmesan and butter.  The delicate little mouthfuls were pillowy soft with bags of flavour, but I thought the dish could have used some pepper. I think I read somewhere that the Coppa is cured locally and is all the better for it. The small wedges of crunchy sweet and sour fennel were a nice counterpoint to the richness of the roughly hewn meat.
Rotorino: coppa with sweet and sour fennel
Service was particularly good from our friendly waiter Caspar and there is generally a pleasant casual vibe to the place. But maybe I'm just a cynical bugger, because there's more than an element of the cookie cutter about the place. No signage? Check. Exposed bricks? Distressed metal? Check, check. Tattooed bar staff? Check. In it's favour, Rotorino does stand out on probably one of the least likeable strips in London, but I cant help thinking that the guys hawking the second hand TVs, drill bits and the odd stolen bike just outside are unlikely to be popping in for the gnudi.

It's easy to like Rotorino, but at the same time I find it hard to be effusive about it although I kind of doubt that's the point. It's more of a neighbourhood place (albeit one catering to the upwardly mobile locals) rather than a destination one. The dishes I sampled were all tasty examples of Southern Italian food but are generally something you could knock up yourself at home without too much effort. That means that I probably won't be making the journey back East too quickly, but if I lived locally I'd be happy to pop round to Rotorino for a plate or two and a glass of something interesting.
Rotorino interior


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