It might seem odd to name your restaurant after the Italian word for ugly, but anyone familiar with the work of restaurateur Russell Norman (co-founder of Venetian small plate sensation Polpo) will know that he has the laser vision of an aesthete. As a result, his Clerkenwell trattoria is a smartly observed homage to the dining rooms of Tuscany, complete with red gingham tablecloths and curtain tiers, wood panelled flooring and numerous pictures doted all over the duck egg blue walls.
The ‘ugly’ in question is actually in reference to his restaurant putting flavour before looks – a nod to the Italian expression ‘brutto ma buono’ meaning ugly but good. Yet to call Brutto’s food ugly is to do it a disservice; while some dishes err on the side of rustic, and many might have a hint or brown or beige to them (pork tonnato or ragu are never going to bring a plethora of colour to then plate) there is beauty in everything served up at Norman’s charming restaurant.
As with the restaurants to which it pays homage, Brutto offers accessible dining for people to make regular trips for. From starters of chicken livers on toast to various pasta mains, few break £15 and many come in at around a tenner. For those wishing to fork out, there’s always Brutto’s signature Florentine T-bone steak – a 21-30 day dry-aged loin from nearby Smithfield Market delivered to the restaurant in a hefty 12kg cut – that is available by the 100g. The restaurant chalks up as many as we can prepare on its blackboard each day, and when they are gone, they are gone. If you do bag one, a side of its stunning roasted potatoes is de rigueur.