What: Opened back in summer 2016, Santi is a regular no-frills Southern Italian restaurant, with open kitchen, wood-fired oven, shelves stocked with deli produce, baskets of sourdough and simple tables. The best bit is the long terrace, garnished with heaters and hedges, the vibes ever so slightly Mediterranean.
Where: Readers will know that the popular Ginger & Mint and especially Hand are two of our go-tos in E20. Just up from the lovely Darkhorse and right next to the Fish House at the eastern end of the very sleepy (at least midweek) East Village, Santi is a few minutes’ walk from Draper’s Field and the southern end of High Road Leyton. The promenade has really blossomed in the last couple of years, and it’s now dappled with sunshine, although the grassy mound is something of a dust bowl.
Why: a 2-course set lunch at £9.95. There are seven or eight starters and mains, from deep fried courgettes and avocado vinaigrette to a handful of pastas and pizzas. We ordered two classics: bruschetta and pollo alla Milanese. Thin wood-oven charred slices of chewy bread arrived drenched in rich olive oil: while the tumbling pile of diced tomatoes could have been sweeter at this time of year, the kick of garlic, and notes of basil and oregano pulled it through. Meanwhile, a vast flat chicken escalope was juicy and sung with its healthy squirt of lemon, although the advertised insalata was nothing more than an emptied out half-bag of mixed leaves. Still, for a tenner etc etc.
Don’t: Order tap water unless you want to court the silent judgement of the waiter. A jug only came after asking twice, lukewarm and un-iced. And yes we felt tight, but this is a Tenner or Less, remember? What were we meant to do?
Notes: The vibe is laidback: we waited outside on a pin-drop quiet midday lunchtime ten minutes before being given a menu. And then the linger between courses was such that we wondered exactly what was happening to the escalope. There were also three uncleared tables outside with legions of wasps circulating (not pictured in our careful shot, above). Conclusion? More staff needed at the height of the summer season. But otherwise, the food here really is good for the price – and the location is pretty damn charming.
Main image: Stephen Emms