When Trullo opened a while back everyone lost their shit about how it was such an amazing ‘neighbourhood restaurant’. But it actually had a massive flaw – it was impossible to ever actually get a table at short notice. Like the first time I went, I’d booked two months in advance which kind of destroys the image of a lovely little local restaurant that you pop into when you’re too tired to cook.
A Little of What You Fancy also bills itself as a neighbourhood place but in the 18-odd months that it’s been open and we’ve been neighbours I’ve never bothered to pop in. Partly it’s the name, which is so twee and knowing that it actually makes me die inside every time I walk past it’s sign (and sure the point of any restaurant is to give you what you fancy), and partly the pricing always struck me as slightly too high for a casual pop in.
But come one rainy weekday evening last week and get a call from my mum who happens to be in town and fancies some dinner. Cue a call to ALoWYF (*sicks in mouth on typing that*) and even though it’s already 6.30 they can fit us in later that night. Perfect. And exactly what you want from a restaurant round the corner from your house.
Sitting down a couple of hours later in the rather mannered dining room – all scruffy wood, boxes of fresh produce and the smallest water glasses I have ever seen – and the signs are good that we might actually get exactly the sort of meal you want at a place that’s less than 5 minutes from your front door. The menu is short for one thing – just four starters and four mains – and full of the sort of stuff you always want to eat but can’t ever be bothered to cook for yourself.
Starters keep things simple and play up to the fact it’s supposed to be spring at the moment. Fish dominates – with a huge and very delicious piece of smoked mackerel served plainly with horseradish cream and rye bread, and mussels freed from their standard white wine accompaniment and given a bit of a pep thanks to the addition of sherry and tomatoes. Asparagus with a duck egg also delivers the required spring freshness offset by the rich and runny yoke – even if it is, as I teased my mum about, basically the most boring thing you can ever order off the menu of a place like this. It’s so safe it’s almost dull. But then again so is Vienna and apparently it’s the best city in the world to live in (crap food though unless you really love pastry and cream).
For a main, I opt for a local lemon sole with jersey royals, asparagus and salsa verde. It arrives, looking very pretty on the place, but then does raise several questions. Firstly, what the big deal about jersey royals – sure they are ok, but they are still basically just potatoes. Secondly, how are you ever supposed to eat a bony fish like soul in an elegant and refined manner? I’m sure there is a way you can munch through it and retain your dignity but it’s not something I’ve ever managed. Finally, where the fuck do you get a sole from locally in Haggerston? Whatever its providence, it was a great piece of fish and it was cooked in a manner that didn’t ruin it in any way, which is pretty much all you need to do when handling something like sole.
Elsewhere on our table, we had another plate of the mussels (still good and in a bigger bowl for a main) and a huge piece of pork belly with the sort of crackling that drives my father insane (he hates other people crunching it, you see). It came with a very lovely celeriac remoulade that cut through the fattiness of the meat. Pork belly is basically so ubiquitous now in restaurants that it’s dull, but at ALoWYF (*sicks in mouth again*) it was cooked well enough it make it very worth a nibble.
Puddings are also safe but exactly the sort of things you want when you’re hungry and in need of the sort of comfort. Think salted chocolate tart or a rhubarb and vanilla mess. Both perfectly serviceable and you’d be very, very happy if you were served either at a dinner party or found it in your fridge when you got home from a crappy day at work.
This isn’t food that is going to win awards, but when you’re hungry, the fridge is bare, and it’s just round the corner, it’s pretty close to perfect. It’s still slightly too expensive to be a truly great neighbourhood restaurant, but then again when you want a good meal and don’t want to bother having to get on a bus, you’re usually happy to pay a little extra for what you fancy.