Ever since experiencing the unique and beautiful region of Puglia nearly four years ago, I have craved the food I indulged in on my Italian adventure. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a new restaurant in Highgate village dedicated to this wonderful cuisine.
Puglia, located right on the heel of Italy is an agricultural region and used to be one of the poorest areas. Due to this Puglian fare is simple, rustic and without a doubt a vegetarian’s nivarna. Vegetables are the cornerstone of the cuisine with so much being grown there. Easy to see now why I’m such a fan.
Ostuni Highgate is a second outpost, the original being in Queen’s Park. The restaurant takes its name from a pretty Puglian hill town and inside it feels authentically Italian.
Ostuni reflects the style and design of a traditional masseria, with white wall stones imported from Puglia, dark worn-in wooden furniture and Italian chefs busy at work behind the semi-open kitchen. When you step in it’s almost like you’ve been transported to Puglia.
Our meal started with antipasti – marinated grape-hyacinth bulbs, artichokes, aubergine (£5.50). It was flavoursome and marinated perfectly.
Partial to an aubergine, my starter was a parmigiana salentina (£7.50) – aubergine stuffed and baked with tomato sauce. The piping hot dish was not much to look at, but the tangy richness of the sauce was perfect. Although very filling for a starter.
The girls plumbed for the orecchiette, the famous ear shaped pasta with tomato sauce.
Mr S was told by his eldest daughter he was to order the king prawns, so the gamberi aglio (16.50) it was for him. They were coated with chilli & garlic and topped with rocket. Seafood naturally a speciality, the impressive looking dish didn’t last long between the two of them.
My main of foglio d’ulivo funghi cardoncelli, burrata e tartufo (£8.50), translated as green olive leaf pasta with burrata, cardoncelli mushrooms and truffle was amazing. Having gone all out with the starter I opted for a smaller portion.
Thank god as it still looked on the large side! It was fresh and delicious with thick pieces of pasta mixed with pungent, earthy flavours of truffle and creaminess of the burrata. Again, a very heavy dish. Luckily Mr S aka truffle fiend was on hand to help.
And a glass of Puglian house white was the only choice to compliment the meal.
Apparently the ‘fornello pronto’ stone oven is where it’s at for some serious carne action – ‘bombette’ stuffed with provolone, T-bone steaks, devilled baby chicken and roast lamb rump are on offer. Carnivores come try it out for yourself and let me know!
I couldn’t even contemplate dessert and rounded things off with a fresh mint tea to help digest all the goodies in my belly. Mr S took one for the team and ordered a pasticciotto all’amarena, crema al liquore di strega (£6) to go with his espresso.
In other words a cherry and frangipani pastry with strega liqueur custard. It was a sweet looking dessert, light and almost like a Bakewell tart in taste. Tiny for the price tag – though maybe just as well given the size of the pasta portions…
We arrived for an early dinner and the restaurant was fairly quiet with another family and a certain Mr Liam Gallagher and co (clearly a favourite with the Mancs), but by the time we left it was filling up fast – not bad for a recently opened place.
Feeling like I was on an Italian mini-break for a couple of hours is enough reason to head back to Ostuni. Couple this with the charming, attentive staff and my delicious regional favourites. I think Ostuni is likely to become a regular haunt.
Do you have a restaurant that reminds you of your favourite place? Let me know in the comments box below.
Ostuni Highgate | 1 Hampstead Lane | Highgate | N6 4RS
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