Review – Downstairs at Trullo
Recently it seems as though not a month goes by without a new cocktail bar opening in London; and with surprisingly few exceptions, the quality has been extremely high. There is however no particular reason why decent cocktails need by the preserve of such specialist establishments, and it has been good to see an increasing number of restaurants starting to take the business of cocktails more seriously . Whether cocktails will ever become so mainstream that they are the norm in restaurants remains to be seen, but ‘Downstairs at Trullo’ certainly seems to be having a go at doing so.
Opened in May 2011, ‘Trullo Downstairs’ is the basement area within Trullo restaurant, located just a hop and skip from Highbury and Islington underground. ‘Downstairs’ is open only Thurs-Sat for dinner and serves up a sharing menu of Italian-inspired smaller plates from a menu that changes daily. Downstairs is a little smaller than the main restaurant at ground level, but benefits from some rather cosy-looking booths and a decor that could perhaps be described as a mash-up of industrial loft and old wine cellar. Somehow it works, the result being quite an inmate space that has nice buzz about it.
Of course the real reason I visited was to check out the cocktails. Like the food menu, these change regularly and also have an Italian ‘theme’ going on. The first indication that this might be something a little more special than your typical restaurant cocktail menu was the inclusion of both a ‘white’ and ‘dark’ Negroni; of course I tried both! I generally find that a traditional ‘dark’ Negroni either delivers or it doesn’t and it’s hard to deliver a really stand-out drink. This one certainly feel into the former category and I loved the twist of garnishing with burnt rosemary. The white Negroni by contrast was simply exceptional. Kammerlings, Plymouth gin, white wine, and pear liqueur combined to create a subtly bitter aperitif that made me grin like an idiot. It was that rare example of a cocktail that would be equally loved by hardened cocktail enthusiasts, and casual diners alike.
With my palate readied, I set about enjoying a plate of wonderfully salty mussel fritti with spicy slivers of chilli, a perfectly juicy roast quail, two silky smooth pumpkin ravioli and what can only be described as the ultimate plate of baked beans! After all that gluttony it was time to check out the next drink and once again I struck gold with the Lions Tail, which combined appleton’s 8yr, Amaro Averna, lime and sugar to great success. Paired with a great slab of pork belly and braised fennel, the zingy freshness cut through the fat of the pork like a hot knife; never mind food and wine matching, this was as good as it gets. Onto dessert and it had to be the espresso martini to go with a vanilla panna cotta and hazelnut praline. The espresso martini was just on the bitter side, which made for a sublime combination with the sweet panna cotta, although I could have enjoyed both immensely on their own. Mrs Thecocktailgeek spent the rest of the evening waxing lyrical about her pear and almond tart, high praise indeed.
If ever there was an venue to show that excellent food and amazing cocktails can be served in the same place at the same time, this is it. What’s more, the prices are that of much inferior establishments, meaning that they tick the great value for money box as well. I have but one complaint and that is the cocktails are listed by name only. I would love to see them listed with ingredients and a short description if only to widen their appeal to the majority of diners observed losing out by drinking wine all evening; such a shame with a bar of this quality is on-hand. If ever their was an advert for why cocktails should be on restaurant menu’s, this is certainly it.
Downstairs at Trullo is a must visit for anyone looking for delicious Italian fodder and some perfectly executed, flavoursome cocktails.