WHEN the weather is as awful as it is, and winter seems to drag on longer than the British obsession with Home & Away, it’s tempting to spend as many hours as possible at home. Instead of going out, it’s much easier to instead while away the evenings eating canned soup and drinking the dregs of the cooking sherry because it’s too cold to even go to the shops.
Even if the fleeting thought of a dinner out crosses your mind, it’s usually immediately cancelled by a quick glance out the window. As the slicing wind blows the biting rain sideways, the possibility of a mediocre dinner at an untested restaurant loses its appeal. Why put on five layers you ask yourself, when all you might get in return is a trek through sub-artic temperatures, angry crowds and only the vague promise of a decent meal at the end of it.
That is, unless you’re going to Trullo in Highbury. Trullo is the reason why anyone would make any effort to do anything in this weather. The answer to the question, why should I eat out at all? Not just a restaurant, but a place which restores your faith in the concept of dining out.
Why don’t I cook for myself? Because Trullo serves up seasonal, quality Italian fare quickly, efficiently and let’s face it, much, much better than you ever could.
Why would I leave the comfort of my own home? Because Trullo is the kind of warm, cosy, consistently full neighborhood bistro which makes passers-by insanely jealous looking in, and diners lucky enough to get a booking indescribably smug looking out.
Everything about Trullo is simple, classic and intimate. With wood lined walls, long benches lining the window, and a kitchen which opens to the dining area, the effect is like being invited into someone’s home. The staff quickly welcome you in out of the pouring rain, and before you know it, you’re seated with a deliciously light, dry and crisp bottle of Italian white on its way on the recommendation of the knowledgeable waitstaff. The changing menu is efficiently explained, with house specialties identified, and delicious specials described in mouth-watering detail.
We can’t go past the pappardelle with beef shin ragu and mussel fritti to start. The mussels, dusted in semolina and lightly fried, are plentiful. With a tangy aioli dipping sauce, it is an excellent starter to share. However, the handmade thick plaits of pappardelle are the absolute standout of the evening, with a rich sauce of melt-in-your mouth, juicy tendrils of beef. As my friend says, “this is the cure to homesickness on a plate”. Warming, hearty, incredible.
Our mains, from the charcoal grill section of the menu, are again recommendations — and excellent ones at that. I receive a pork chop unlike I’ve ever seen before. A large, tender, deliciously cooked piece of pig, expertly matched with a generous helping of crispy poached potatoes, appropriately bitter chargrilled trevise and a creamy anchovy sauce. The other main needs no added extras either. A thick rump of lamb in a refreshing tomato sauce with tender cannellini beans.
We don’t know how we fit in dessert after all that, but where there is a will there is a way. Salted caramel ice-cream is properly salted, a perfect mix of bitter and sweet. The almond tart has a flaky homemade pastry shell, and is topped with tangy rhubarb. Stomachs protesting, we finish it all.
There are not enough words to recommend Trullo to the extent it deserves. It is the dining equivalent of a roaring log fire. Cosy and heartening, with fresh dishes made with absolute care and passion. It will leave you sated, satisfied, and happy. That is, until you have to take yourself back out into the rain to make the journey home.
Entrees between £6-£9, mains £14-£20 and desserts £4.5-£7.5. Trullo is at 300-302 St Paul’s Road London, N1 2LH.