I usually miss out wandering up the stretch of Kingsland Road north of Haggerston to Dalston, usually just passing through on the 243. There’s now a very good reason to, with Rotorino open at number 432 (a second actually until middle of May, as the Mussel Men site is a few doors down – apparently the Sunday seafood roast is the thing to go for).
Stevie Parle (of the Dock Kitchen) is behind the menu, with Ruth of Legs Long Length behind the wine, and Jonathan Downey as a partner (of Milk & Honey, Streetfeast etc). The interior is a rather gorgeous mix of geometric 60s wallpaper, shiny over-sized industrial hanging lamps, bare brick and blond wood. There’s a bar and long sharing table at the front, with tables and boots for four people at the back.
The menu is split into First (small dishes, under cured, raw/cold, fried and grilled), Second (pasta), and Third (meat and fish dishes). From the first, we started with the octopus (£4), grilled with the smoky fragrance of its rosemary sprig skewer, and really tender with the chilli and soaked bread sauce (I’ve forgotten the rubbery over-cooked sort, with all the lovely silky/justthe right bite kind I have had recently).
From the First, the chickpea fritters (£3.50) came as little square pillows, with fried sage. N thought they were a little bland, but I really liked them alongside the sweet/salty tang of the aubergine, tomato, celery, pine nuts and raisins in the caponata (£4.80).
There was a selection of four pasta dishes, to come as a small or big bowl (great blue and white spot spattered enamel bowls by the way). We had the pistachio casarecce (small £7.50), a little like a non-cheesy pesto with lots of crushed pistachio nuts with the basic, garlic and olive oil. The other we tried was the mussels fusilli longhi (£7 for the small size), with the seafood chopped and intense, with tomato, oregano and chilli. Rotorino will definitely be added to my top 5 London pasta places (in progress at the moment).
It’s often good to go with the waitress recommendation. It paid off with the Sasso chicken (chicken’s usually my last choice on the menu) – there’s tender meat, with ricotta stuffed under the crispy chicken (£14 for a one-person version). It came on rich chicken juice soaked toast, and was absolutely delicious. We had it alongside the Monk’s Beard (£4.50) with lentils (Monk’s Beard looks a little like samphire, and tastes similar but less salty, and has only a five week season where it grows in Tuscany).
The rest of the bottle of very good red wine (all very reasonable) and pudding pretty much finished us off. The pudding was billed as chocolate cake (£5), but it came as a very rich, dark fudgey cocoa ball, sprinkled with pistachios and honeycomb. They also obliged with swapping the sour cream on the side with the excellent hazelnut ice-cream.
You can really tell the team behind it come from successful existing places – service was spot-on, and it’s just the relaxed room you want to rush back to. Alongside the excellent, and well-priced, interesting Italian menu, I’ll be hopping off the 243 bus on Kingsland Road more often.