Restaurant Review: Rustico Bistro Italiano

This tiny sunshine-yellow restaurant, tucked away in the quaint pedestrianized St Margaret’s Buildings, is an absolute sparkler (click here to see the website). I’d walked past plenty of times on the way home, and always gotten a good lungful of the most wonderful cooking smells, so I knew it was worth a try. In the summer there are tables and chairs out on the flagstones, but on the evening that we went, we sat in the snug, candlelit interior – exposed stone walls and wooden panelling give the two small rooms a cosy air, with tables crammed in and a cheerful clatter from the tiny kitchen behind the bar.

To start, I had some delicious calamari fritti, which were crisp and sweet, with a wonderful tangy tartare sauce, but the starter I’d really recommend is the salsiccia de cinghale – a sumptuously rich stew of wild boar sausage, beans, lentils and onions, in a mouth-watering red wine sauce crammed with fragrant herbs. For my main course, I opted for one of the specials – salmon fishcakes, which were crisp on the outside, meltingly smooth and fluffy in the middle, and perfectly seasoned. If I were to make one criticism, I’d say that perhaps the accompanying salad wasn’t particularly interesting, but that’s really the only thing I can come up with! I was too full to really need dessert, but it was impossible to resist when the first two courses had been so good, so I finished my meal with a delicious tiramisu.

The prices are very reasonable considering the quality of the food – most starters were roughly £7 and main courses between £10 and £20. There wasn’t a hugely extensive menu, but I usually consider that a good sign – I think it often shows more thoughtfulness and care on the part of the chef than a great long menu which tries to cover too many bases. I want to be told what to eat by someone who knows what they’re talking about! Finally, the service was great – the staff were friendly and attentive, and eager to share their knowledge about the food and drink on offer.

Check this place out for a great taste of Italy – and to complete the experience, go on a lovely summer evening, when you can sit outside and watch the sky turn dusky blue over the rooftops as you eat. Bliss.