Spitz Bistro

Tel: +44 (0)20 7392 9032
Address: 109 Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6BG
Cuisine Type: International

Spitz is a bar, a gallery, a live music venue and a bistro. Backing onto Old Spitalfields Market – with some outside tables almost part of the market – it’s a bustling place with no pretensions to elegance. Ochre concrete walls, bare wood tables and assorted chairs are brightened by red highlights and fat candles and the atmosphere is cheerful and relaxed, with a complete cross section of diners from city stripes to gig goers. It was Norwegian night upstairs when we were there – a showcase of unsigned bands – and although you can’t actually give an opinion on the talent, don’t go to eat at Spitz Bistro if you fancy a quiet chat.

The surroundings suggest a rather basic menu but the food is not only interesting, but at times downright inspired. Chef Simon Andrews has an artist’s eye when it comes to presenting dishes and some of the combinations of flavour are genuinely innovative. The starter of king prawns with Indian Spices and Okra pickle was superb: the prawns succulent and char-grilled in the spice mixture and the dish carefully constructed with layers of poppadoms, like a Blue Peter project gone wonderfully awry. At £8.45 it wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny. Chicken liver pate with crostini and spiced onion marmalade (£6.95) was also excellent, the pate smooth, delicate and delicious and the rough crostini a perfect foil. Good breads are from a local organic bakery and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Main courses (£11.95 – 14.95) come with their own delicious (and filling) accompaniments – Brussel and chestnut mash with turkey fillet, organic root vegetables with duck breast etc. The sea bass with artichoke mash was a triumph. There are interesting vegetarian options: roasted butternut squash with rosemary potatoes and maple and balsamic dressing sounded heavenly. When all the dishes seem to come so well provided, I’m not sure who orders the extra vegetables available at £2.50 – £3.25, or the very pricey salads at £4.95.

The pudding menu is highly tempting (all £5.95). Dark chocolate fondant with mascarpone ice cream (15 minutes) sounded fabulous – and was good, though the little chocolate pudding could have been a bit gooier in the middle – but the prize went to the Apple Tartin (sic) with cinnamon and brioche ice cream. Now that I would kill for.

The wine list includes a good mixture of new and old world choices. It was about to change when we visited, but the good news is that the silky-smooth ’98 Rioja (£18.75) is staying. House wine is £11.50.

Spitz is not cheap, especially as service is not included. But the food is excellent, the service friendly, unassuming and highly efficient, and there’s no doubt the place has a buzz. There’s a simpler lunch menu available and also some classic brunch dishes that sound mouth-watering: and joy of joys, here’s one place in London that’s actually open seven days a week.

– Helen Wright, 3/2003