15 Apr Food finds: Brunch at Otto Milan
I recently went back to Milan for the first time in almost a year, as I was desperate to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the MUDEC and had decided that this was a good enough excuse for a solo day out in Italy’s style capital.
I’d pre-booked both my train and my ticket to the gallery online, and had deliberately chosen to arrive in Milan well over an hour before my fixed entry slot at the exhibition in order to wander across the city on foot, avoiding the pushy, sweaty, and all-round unpleasant experience of Italian public transport.
Naturally, as soon as my Regionale Veloce pulled in to the station, the heavens opened, and I was forced to abandon all hope of a lovely morning walk and a cappuccino along the way, instead making my way to Porta Genova on the Metro and finding that the entire population of Milan plus 10,000,000 tourists had decided to check out some Mexican art that day too.
Although the exhibition itself was wonderful, the numbers of visitors made it quite a stressful experience, and after over an hour of elbowing my way through hoardes of other people to be able to actually see some of the art, I was more than ready to get out of there.
My original plan had been to go for another wander after the exhibition and maybe check out another gallery, but needless to say I was no longer in the mood for either. Going straight back to Turin felt a bit too much like giving up, so the only thing for it was to find a great place for brunch.
I did a bit of Insta-research while standing awkwardly in the entranceway of the MUDEC, and came across somewhere that looked like exactly what I was after.
I hopped back on the green line, got off at Moscova, traipsed through the drizzle for a few minutes, and finally arrived at oTTo; a very cute café-bar-restaurant in a little square just off via Paolo Sarpi, in the heart of Milan’s Chinatown district.
At 2pm on a Saturday, the place was really busy, and I will admit I did have a small internal panic about where on earth I was going to go if I couldn’t get a seat. But – once again – solo travel saved the day and the super smiley waitress quickly carved out a little spot for me by the window (even in the busiest of restaurants, there is always space for one).
As you’ll know by now – especially if you’ve read my eating out guide to Riga, Latvia – the cafés and restaurants that I love the most are all a little bit hipster in style. Slightly Nordic-looking oTTo, with its mismatched chairs, stylish lightbulbs, and hanging plants, is no exception. It’s pleasantly light and bright (even on a miserable, grey day like this one) with big windows, white walls, and green accents from a leafy plant wall which I’m thinking of begging S to replicate in our new flat.
When you arrive at brunch time, you’ll be given a little slip of blue paper and a pen, and asked to choose one savoury “quadrotto” (that’s “square of toast with toppings” to you and me) from a choice of 4, one savoury side from a choice of two, and three other little tasters – sweet or savoury – from a choice of 6. Write your name on the slip (why is ordering food always more fun when you have to do that?!), and take it up to the bar. You’ll then pay your €17 – really very reasonable, especially in Milanese terms – help yourself to Americano coffee and water, and go back to your table to wait.
Just to get your taste-buds going, here’s what I went for:
1 quadrotto: Avocado, feta, cucumber, mint, and toasted seeds
1 side: Carrot and turmeric soup
3 little tasters: Hummus, sausages, and cheesecake
The waiter will bring your food directly to the table and – believe me – you will feel an overwhelming urge to take a photo of it immediately; oTTo writes on their website that they might just have the most Instagram-worthy brunch in Milan, and I have to say I’d be inclined to agree.
Brunch is served on a little wooden square rather than a plate, but despite the hipster presentation, this café doesn’t feel overly pretentious, and the food is yummy as well as photogenic.
It’s the kind of chilled out and un-snobby place that’s ideal for a weekend catch up with a group of friends, but that’s also perfect for university students looking for free WiFi and a place to study, or even solo travellers who need a place to rest their weary legs, have a bite to eat, and make a plan for the afternoon. Obviously, you can’t hang around there on your laptop nursing a glass of tap water during lunchtime, but if you’ve had something to eat and want to hang out for a little while after, nobody will hassle you either (a rarity in Italy, let me tell you!).
As anticipated, a good meal in a pretty café turned even this grey day around, and I was soon making my way back towards Milano Centrale to catch the train home, no longer in a foul mood caused by Milan’s chaos and crowds, but instead feeling quite smug about having stumbled across such a gem of a brunch spot.
Website – Facebook – Instagram
Via Paolo Sarpi 8, Milan
Open: Mondays 19.00-02.00, Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-02.00
N.B. oTTo is open all day, for breakfast/lunch/aperitivo/dinner/drinks, but doesn’t take bookings.
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