Tom finds the spirit of Tuscany – and ‘a menu to make you happy’ – in London’s Smithfield

Trattoria Brutto: brimming with bonhomie and built for lingering

Trattoria Bruntto: A scrumptious, bluffing place that is built to last

Smithfield has a part that’s forever Tuscany. Well, that’s what restaurateur Russell Norman is hoping to create at Trattoria Brutto. Formerly patrono of the Polpo group which was all about Venice, he’s now moved south and west, towards Florence, Siena and the rest. A shuttered and empty site from his past sits in his place, reminding us that not all restaurants are as successful (and I enjoyed his first two).

Norman, who is a friend, is back. He is lean and grissini. Brutto, with its tablecloths made of red check, linen napkins, and a menu written in an old-school Olivetti 101 font font, is knowingly referencing, but never concocted. The room already seems stained with the fug of gossip and bonhomie, feeling as if it’s been here for decades, rather than a mere four weeks. Fans whir above the room as wall art, including drawings, photographs, and paintings are adorning it. Olly Smith (my friend) cools the white wine in an old caterer’s tin filled with La Carmela plum tomatoes. The list is a big hit with him. Cantabrian anchovies rich in Medici-era riches are ordered. They’re served cold with butter and bread. Chicken liver crostini is a faintly Tuscan-inspired dish.

There’s a cool, elegantly discreet pork loin tonnato, and soft, deep-fried dough balls called ‘coccoli’ (the Italian for cuddles), which are torn apart and stuffed with silken prosciutto and coldly lactic stracchino cheese. Cuddle isn’t the only thing you can do, but full-blooded affection.

The homemade pasta is light and fluffy, just as you would expect, with the addition of a lemon-spiked sauce for rabbits. And a sonorous, slow-cooked ragù that involves pounds of flesh, litres of wine and days of bubble, bubble, blip. This ragu tastes of succour and cheer. The peposo is a classic Tuscan beef stew with plenty of fresh peppercorns. It is the perfect menu for making you smile. This menu is cooked by chefs who are experts in their field, with staff that seem happy to be there. Tuscany’s spirit is full of warmth and hospitality. But Trattoria Brutto doesn’t just feed you. You feel nourished, satisfied and hopeful. If you need further proof, your favorite restaurants offer so much more than just food.

About £35 per head. Trattoria Bruntto, 35-37 Greenhill Rents London EC1;



Drinks: Olly’s low- and no-alcohol picks

Low-alcohol and no-alcohol beverages have had a bad reputation. They are often as happy as stagnant water. These drinks aren’t as dull anymore. In fact, I’ve tasted plenty of good low-alcohol beer in the past such as Small Beer and Big Drop, whereas low-alcohol wine, I admit, previously left my tastebuds feeling like shrivelled angry molluscs. It is finally a positive step. 

DRINK OF THE WEEK Mother Root Ginger Switchel, (0%), £24, Zesty, spicy, sharply refreshing, this is liquid invigoration.

DRINK OF THE WEEK Mother Root Ginger Switchel, (0%), £24, You will feel energized with this refreshing liquid.

Low Alcohol Garnacha-Rosé 2020 (less than 0.5%), £2.75, Tesco. Fruity and easy, a drinkable glimpse of low-alcohol wine’s bright future.

Low Alcohol Garnacha-Rosé 2020 (less than 0.5%), £2.75, Tesco. Fruity and easy, a drinkable glimpse of low-alcohol wine’s bright future.

Oddbird Blanc de Blancs (0%), £9.99, Fizz minus the hangover? Matured for 12 months, this feels like a guilt-free treat.

Oddbird Blanc de Blancs (0%), £9.99, You don’t need to have a hangover with Fizz! This is a treat that’s guilt-free, as it has been aged for twelve months.

Lucky Saint (less than 0.5%), £18 for 12 x 330ml case, Delicious unfiltered lager with very low booze: crisp and ace.

Lucky Saint (less than 0.5%), £18 for 12 x 330ml case, A delicious, unfiltered beer with very little alcohol: Crispy and Ace.

Everleaf Mountain (0%), £19, everleaf Made to be a bit like pink gin but without the alcohol. Tasty served with tonic.

Everleaf Mountain (0%), £19, everleaf This is pink gin that tastes a lot like it, but doesn’t contain alcohol. Tonic is a great accompaniment.