Trullo Downstairs Bar & Kitchen

The stellar new downstairs bar of a low-key neighbourhood Italian

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An avalanche of “N1’s answer to the River Café” reviews and a slavishly loyal crowd of Islingtonian foodies and celebrities have ensured that what might be an otherwise low-key neighbourhood Italian has been full just about every night since it opened in spring 2010.

Taking up the space occupied by the Gill Wing Café, head chef Tim Siadatan hails from stints at St John, Fifteen and Moro, and what comes out of his kitchen is lush indeed. With a cap on wine mark-ups of a tenner a bottle, and main courses at a fraction of the price of Hammersmith’s legendary waterside Italian, Trullo isn’t just for special occasions. Highbury regulars have every reason to be smug about having something this good on their doorstep.

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On ELLEuk’s recent visit we ate in the new basement bar which offers small plates, and a great opportunity (with each plate hovering around the £5 mark) to eat your way around the Trullo style of cooking in one evening. There’s nothing fancy, nothing quirky, just expertly prepared and super-fresh Italian food from the saucepan, oven and grill. The basement has the ambience of a slightly dodgy jazz club – there are candlelit nooks and crannies, paper tablecloths and the daily changing menu chalked up on one wall. Rather unnervingly, the glazed-over raw flooring makes the room look, at first sight, like it’s been flooded. An evening here has the frisson of the illicit. It’s quite the sexy spot.

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Some of the small plates are straightforward sized-down versions of what’s going on upstairs. Three each should suffice. We tried both pasta dishes: Pappardelle with beef shin ragu and tagliarini with yellow and green courgettes and brown shrimps. The former was slick and rich, the beef having been cooked down for around five hours. The latter was a perfect summer’s day in carbohydrate form; slightly bitter, very delicious, full of sunshine flavours. We could have eaten several plates of each. The sea trout could’ve perhaps done with a little more chilli, but sliced cucumber was an unexpectedly good friend to it, and grilled quail was a hands-on, hands-down great poultry dish. We’d certainly order the pearl barley with sweet herbs and fresh ricotta again: like the tagliarini, it was all the flavours of a summer’s afternoon in Tuscany; a dreamy holiday memory of a dish. We shared a caramel pannacotta and some apricot ripple ice cream for pud. It had a wickedly sweet caramel drizzle on it, but still had perfect texture and vanilla notes. Service was excellent – our waitress seemed genuinely in love with the food she was recommending and serving and knew the menu inside out and upside down.

All in all, it's quite simply the best possible reason to ride the Victoria line to Highbury & Islington, and well worth crossing town for. Trullo, we have a crush on you, and it looks like it might get serious…

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The ELLEuk Score

Food: 9

Ambience: 8

Service: 9

Value: 9

Good for: Quick bite after work; pre-theatre; first date; romantic; group dinner; work lunch/dinner

Style of food: Italian

Prices and Other Details at Trullo Downstairs Bar & Kitchen

Address: 300 Saint Paul’s Road, Islington N1 2LH

Opening times: 6.30pm-10.30pm Mon-Fri; 12.30pm-2.30pm Sat; 12.30pm-3pm Sun; 7pm-10.30pm Sat

Average price per person for two course meal without wine: £15 (three small plates)

Set menu: £30 – set Sunday lunch

Price of bottle house wine: £17.50, Il Meridione, Cataratto (white); £19, Borgo Selene 2010, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d’Avola (red)

Price of glass house wine: £3.50, as above.

Price of glass house champagne: None – Prosecco di Valdobbiadene available, £7.

Price of bottle house champagne: None – Prosecco di Valdobbiadene available, £28.

Private dining? No

Outside dining? No

Bar? Downstairs bar for diners and non-diners

Best tables? There are some intimate snugs/booths at the rear of the basement

Who goes? Chic Islington couples and families, Lulu and John Frieda (their son Jordan is co-owner).

Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington

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