Please disregard any critic reviews you’ve read dismissing this as just another hipster hangout. Rotorino is a fine place for dinner and there was barely a beard in sight.
On the unlikely looking, soon to be gentrified, stretch of Kingsland Road known as Haggerston, you’ll find a little diamond in the rough – Rotorino. Its menu offers up food inspired by southern Italian home-style cooking and focuses on big flavours, with multiple courses available. True to form we pushed the boat out and had four each.
It was International Lambrusco Day (so we were informed) and we were offered the chance to taste 11 different varieties for for £10. As tempting as that was, it sounded like a dangerous way to start the evening so I settled on just having a glass. It was very enjoyable and not at all like the insipid, syrupy 7% crap that’s been foisted on the UK market since the 70’s.
My dining partner was happy to report that they also passed his acid test and can make a more than decent martini. In our opinion, the bar is easily good enough to earmark this as a stand alone drinks venue, especially for their range of Italian wines. Then again, they do call themselves ‘restaurant and wine bar’ so perhaps that’s not surprising.
Pretty much everything on the menu sounded delicious. It’s always nice when the hardest thing about ordering is knowing when to stop. We began with the breaded and fried pig’s head terrine. It looked a bit anemic on the plate but really delivered on flavour and texture. If you’re put off by wibbly-wobbly bits, perhaps this is one to steer clear of but I urge you to give it a go. Our other starter, grilled octopus was great while it lasted but it seemed a bit mean – too small a portion for £8.
Next up was our extra course – the pasta. After the first few mouthfuls, I was on the verge of loving the sausage gnochetti sardi but as I ate more, the seasoned fried breadcrumbs took their toll and the dish started to taste too salty. Much better was the pea gnudi. I hear they’ve since transformed it into girolles gnudi and am rather keen to give that a try.
Hanger steak came rare as requested but there was very little sign of the promised chilli sauce and we’d have liked some extra oomph. It was great value at just £10 but as it happened, it was totally outshone by the middlewhite pork chop. This was definitely the star of the meal; tender, juicy, hearty and full of flavour.
Desserts were equally brilliant. The chocolate cake was seriously rich and bitter – a proper adults’ dessert. One side was fudgey, almost like a mousse, the other had been baked a little more so was cakier in texture. The pistachios and honeycomb added much needed crunch and it was a struggle to hold back from licking the plate clean. Nespole and almond tart was also pretty much faultless, even if it was lost in comparison to the plate of chocolatey goo.
Please disregard any critic reviews you’ve read dismissing this as just another hipster hangout, Rotorino is a fine place for dinner and there was barely a beard in sight. When east London restaurants are reviewed, it now seems mandatory for food journos to roll out a list of trusty clichés, usually centred around facial hair and hipsters. It’s getting increasingly tedious but I suppose the way of the world is to mock what you don’t understand.
This is a great value, good quality, family-friendly restaurant with an excellent bar and wine list. Don’t let any dodgy, ‘clever’ jokes from a few boring old farts detract from that.
I’ve heard people compare it to The River Cafe, probably because Steve Parle used to work there, but as far as I’m concerned, the single biggest difference between the two is about £200 on your bill. If Rotorino was in Soho, it would be half the size and impossible to get a table. Kingsland Road – you know it makes sense.
Food for two inc service: £85.50
Total bill with drinks: £132
Address: 434 Kingsland Rd, London, E8 4AA
Tel: 020 7249 9081