Southern comfort | Ostuni, 43-45 Lonsdale Road, London NW6 6RA
Anyone that knows us is more than aware of our love of Puglia. Having holidayed and married there at Trullo Fico, it holds a pretty special place in our hearts. It’s been two years since our wedding and we think of this unique and wonderful region of Italy often.
For those who don’t know, Puglia is the ‘poorer’ part of Italy, right on the heel. Magical conical trulli buildings are dotted everywhere, it really is beautiful. Another draw is the dead cheap, but very good food and wine, we regularly picked up a whopping five litres of wine for €3 – amazing. Flights are cheap too, if you don’t mind enduring the trials of Ryanair.
When we heard about Ostuni – London’s first Puglian restaurant opening in Queen’s Park we leapt on it and followed its progress avidly. Ostuni is the town in which we held our nuptials too, double whammy in specialness.
Unfortunately it seemed this new restaurant was suffering slight teething problems, so we gave them as much time to get on their feet as we could before visiting. Perhaps we should have given them a little more time, or perhaps we have to accept the haphazard service as part of its charm…
After six weeks we couldn’t stand to hold off any longer. We found Ostuni tucked away down a side street with plenty of outside seating, even a Vespa was strategically parked nearby, we had a real sense of that holiday feeling. Until we were blocked at the door that is, by a staff member asking if we had a reservation. Make sure you have one, they are remarkably busy.
We were led to our half-inside, half-outside table which boasted front row seats of the open kitchen bustling with Italian chefs. The head chef Antonio Calo comes from a family of chefs in Brindisi, his dad has 45 years of experience in the industry and Antonio himself has over 30 years. A stand-out chirpy waitress explained the menu (and it does need some explaining). They recommend a couple of cold and hot antipasti to start, share a pasta dish for secondi and then a dish each from the grill plus a side or a salad if you’re feeling particularly hungry. The decor is bang on – authentic Puglian stone walls and heavy dark worn-in furniture. Everything has been shipped over from Italy, Ostuni has achieved the almost impossible task of looking like it has been there for ever, they’ve done an incredible job. We are really pleased they didn’t follow the London trend by using industrial lighting, instead they use quirky soil sieve lights hung from the ceiling.
Cocktails were OK, Ade’s Ostuni Sour £8 was more bitter than sour, we’d recommend sticking to the wine. In our opinion cocktails just don’t suit some restaurants, and Ostuni is one of them, plus the carafes are so cute and heighten that holiday feeling. We had a 500ml carafe of Negroamaro Puglia £13.50. Apparently the cheaper Organic Valle d’itria Rosso £22 (per bottle) is a table wine for ‘when you’re here for the duration’, we were politely warned off this, it’s probably like the stuff we drank litres of in Puglia.
We started off with the Bread, focaccia and taralli £3. Taralli is a Puglian crunchy loop of bread, this variety was laced with onion and swept us back to Puglia instantly. The focaccia was super-soft, fresh and dripping with ripe sweet tomatoes.
I was disappointed not to be able to order any of the famed Puglian pasta orecchiette that we love so much. The reason being the chef told us cheese is integral in all the orecchiette dishes, especially the beef and pork rib that I had my eye on. When will someone cure me of this annoying hatred of the stuff? We started off with the Burrata stracciatella, popped cherry tomatoes £8 – for Ade of course. If I ever get cured, this will be the first cheese I eat. Ade said it was so luscious, soft and creamy with an almost sweet taste – amazing with the peppery rocket. I adored my perfect and not too dense Meatballs £5 drenched in a tangy tomato sauce, so tasty I wanted to keep them all for myself.
Our orecchiette replacement of Seafood calamarata £13 was lovely, and something that I wouldn’t normally order. Plentiful with mussels, clams, prawns and squid, I finally stopped sulking about not eating the little pasta ears that I had my heart set on. From the Arrosto Pugliese (grilled meats) section we had the robust Fegatino – Calves liver, pancetta, parsley £3 – Ade’s favourite he wished he’d ordered two portions of these little meat bundles.
An almost too dense Spicy sausage £3 was our least preferred, but an amazing Half baby chicken £5.50 was tender with addictive perfectly seasoned crisp skin. We loved the Spinach, chicken, avocado, chestnut mushroom salad £8 but it was possibly a dish too far, we were too stuffed to eat it all.
These dishes sat on our table for almost ten minutes with no plates to eat them off. We both spent this time trying to grab the attention of the busy staff. One waitress lurked in the corner polishing cutlery for what felt like the entire duration of our meal, she was impossible to attract. The said plates were on a mill stone serving area in front of us, so in the end I gave up and went and got them myself. A restaurant first, I don’t think any one of the three managers (yes, three) would be very impressed about the fact we had to do that.
The mention of the Leccese limoncello cream pie £6 on the dessert menu excited me so much. Until it turned up. I adore cream pies and limoncello so this sounded amazing, however there was a distinct lack of cream. And pie. It was basically a lemon tart, a very lovely lemon tart, but not a limoncello cream pie. The ice-cold limoncello chaser I ordered helped to soften the blow. Ade wimped out and went for gelato as his belly was bursting with meat and carbs. He opted for Pistachio and vanilla £4 – oh-so velvety and creamy.
By the time we left the restaurant was absolutely heaving, especially compared to the tumbleweed neighbouring restaurants we walked past on the way to the tube. Despite the service which left us feeling slightly stressed at times, we did adore Ostuni. It was always going to have a lot to live up to in our minds. Once they iron out the problems with the service, this place will be very special indeed.
43-45 Lonsdale Road,
London NW6 6RA
To make a booking or enquiry, call 0207 6248035
or email email@example.com
Opening hours: Weekdays from 12pm, last food orders at 10.30pm. On weekends from 12.30pm and last food orders at 10.30pm
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Nearest station: Queen’s Park