In a nutshell
Puglian food moves into the spotlight in this smart new North London opening; the sister restaurant to the very successful Ostuni in Queens Park.
The menu at Ostuni is a real celebration of the food of Puglia. There are familiar ingredients on the menu but you won’t find standard trattoria grub here as the menu bounces around the specialities of the regions. The team know their stuff aswell as the head chef and most of the kitchen staff are Puglian.
What’s the room like
Tiled flooring and pale white Italian stonework give the huge, airy room an authentic Mediterranean feel, but warm rustic wood tables, patterned wall tiles and soft lighting stop it from being too cold.
The open kitchen in the centre of the space has a stone oven at its heart which is used to cook a lot of the classic Puglian dishes.The overall vibe is relaxed and very buzzy, this would be a perfect place to have a big family and friends gathering.
From the smaller plates we tried Burrata d’Andria e ciambotta – a creamy burrata served with a light summery stew of aubergine, pepper and tomato. Fegatini di Cisternino – calves liver that had that had been wrapped in pancetta and roasted in the wood oven was perfectly tender and pink. The richness of the meat was balanced by slices of lightly pickled courgettes served alongside.
One of the specialities of Puglia is bombette – very finely sliced Puglian pork which is wrapped around cheese and herbs, skewered and grilled in the wood oven. The result is little flavour bombs of pork, crisp and chargrilled on the outside with an oozy melting cheese interior. Ostuni offer three types so aswell as just provolone cheese you can also have mushrooms or sundried tomatoes and paprika. Alongside this we had perfect courgette fritti – a huge pile of skinny courgette fries in super-light crisp batter.
There is a short cocktail list of Italian classics such as Aperol spritz and Negroni with a few quirky additions – we tried the Grapefruit margarita which was refreshingly bitter – the grapefruit matched really well with tequila.
Unsurprisingly the wine list focusses heavily on Puglia with 6 whites and reds from the region offered by the glass as well as a further selection of Puglian and regional Italian wines. We had the Nero di troia, Duca D’Ascoli, a soft and smooth red which went perfectly with the grilled meats and rich cheese.
Ostuni is a brilliant new addition to Highgate, an area of North London which has great food pubs but a high proportion of chain restaurants and very few independents. It’s also really refreshing to eat in a casual Italian restaurant that doesn’t just go down the tired classics route. It looks like their aim to bring lesser known Puglian food to a whole new audience will be a winner.
1 Hampstead Lane