Tom Parker Bowles & Olly Smith: Home-cooked Italian food at Rostick and classic wines on a budget

Tom discovers décor can be deceiving as he heads to the coast for home-cooked Italian.

At first glance, Rostick seems like your typical small-town British Italian restaurant, the sort of much-loved local where spaghetti comes with Bolognese, grissini are sealed in plastic and no dinner’s complete without a steak Diane and chips. But appearances can be deceptive, even in a room where the walls are lime green, the bar bathed in neon and the ceiling covered in twigs.

Rostick Restaurant
‘Handheld heaven’: roasted mutton on skewers (or arrosticini), the Abruzzan speciality that gives the restaurant its name

Because Rostick is one of those rare places that manages to combine the old school with the resolutely regional. Presided over by the omniscient Lorenzo, who is both chef and proprietor, we eat polpette made from beef, pork and porcini mushrooms, plump and sweetly meaty, wallowing in a sharp tomato sauce, and blanketed in a thick wodge of melted mozzarella. Oh, and three hunks of toasted bread, baked into the melee, for mopping up every last trace of glorious Italian-American excess.

Then a terracotta jug containing a dozen arrosticini, barbecued mutton on a skewer, a speciality of Abruzzo, Lorenzo’s home region. He uses Italian sheep, cooked over coals, until charred, just chewy and bleating with ovine delight. Add a good dollop of his fierce, home-made chilli sauce and you’re in handheld heaven. I’d happily nail a dozen more of these, but there’s a turbot to come, a beast, delivered fresh this morning, and brought out for a pre-cooking gawp. Eastbourne has its advantages, and spanking fresh turbot is certainly one.

It arrives half an hour later, beautifully cooked, the flesh coaxed from the bone, with a mere moment of resistance, in great opalescent chunks. Seriously, it’s up there with Scott’s, Wiltons or Bentley’s. And at a mere £30, about a third of their price too. Lorenzo takes immense pride in his fish, and you can taste why. Next time, more seafood.

And more pasta, definitely the paccheri with sausage and broccoli. But for now, a break, and an icy Dirty Martini because my friends Jonathan and Janine (who I’m here with) say they mix a mean one, and they do. It’s the sort of small, family-owned place where nothing is too much trouble, and everything is done with a grin. It also helps that Lorenzo is one hell of a cook. In the background, Italian radio trills merrily. A long afternoon awaits.

About £25 a head. Rostick Restaurant, 209 Terminus Road, Eastbourne;

DRINKS: Olly’s classics on a budget

The world of classic wine really belongs to France, with the Champagne and Bordeaux regions worthy of high praise – and lofty price tags. Supermarket own-label bottles can save you money, or try wine from vineyards close to famous names – Haut Poitou Sauvignon Blanc instead of Sancerre, for instance. Pick from France’s other gems, such as Beaujolais or the Rhône for reds, and your cash soars even further.

CHIROUBLES LA SCANDALEUSE DOMAINE MÉTRATWINE OF THE WEEK: CHIROUBLES LA SCANDALEUSE DOMAINE MÉTRAT 2019 (13%), £12.50, Perfumed as a rose, light yet textural. A future classic.

PIERRE SAUVION HAUT-POITOU SAUVIGNON BLANCPIERRE SAUVION HAUT-POITOU SAUVIGNON BLANC 2020 (12.5%), £8.99, Majestic. Zingy and resonant as a whitecurrant trapped in a whistle.

M&S CLASSICS CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNEM&S CLASSICS CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE BRUT NV (12%), £10. Fizz of my dreams. Aged in the bottle for 18 months, this pristine peach of a wine rivals good Champagne.

CAP ROYAL BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEURCAP ROYAL BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEUR 2019 (13.5%), £10, Tesco. Scented and earthy as truffles, this savoury classic is a steal with a roast or nibble of cheddar.

LE VERDIER CAIRANNELE VERDIER CAIRANNE 2019 (14.5%), £10, Morrisons. This is bold and silky, fragrant, robust and warming. Think budget Châteauneuf-du-Pape.