The day began with the usual indecision, Mark had recommended we head to Coppa for brunch which is Toro’s sister restaurant as they have a pretty famous hangover pizza. We were torn however- did we want to go there for brunch and therefore rule out going there for dinner (and the promise of chestnut patsa with wild boar ragu)? In the end, no we did not, it just sounded too good, as did the arancini (fried risotto balls).

So we decided as it was such a nice day we would walk just a couple of blocks to a restaurant called South End Buttery on the corner of Shawmut Ave and Union Park St and have brunch there. Their brunch is a lot more similar to what you would normally expect to find on a brunch menu and no less appetising for it.When we arrived it seemed full to bursting which I always think is a good thing- if it’s busy, that probably means it’s good, if i’ve never been somewhere before i always think it’s a pretty good way to judge a place. Nevertheless, they managed to find us a table downstairs almost instantly and whilst we perused the menu we got some drinks underway. I went for an Espresso Martini, always appropriate for brunch i think (sometimes it has a bit of coffee, maybe…) Hayls opted for a Vanilla Chai Martini and Alex did the classic Mimosa. These were a pretty good way to kick off a Sunday but all i would say is STIR, i didn’t for the first couple of mouthfuls and it was pretty much neat booze.

Then came the food, as soon as Hayley and I glimpsed scones on the menu, the decision had been made, there was no way we were letting that pass us by, although we did share one to lessen the guilt. Scones are a big weakness of mine, but i’m pretty specific, i want clotted cream. If you can’t give me that, i’m not interested, these did though, along with some sweet, sticky homemade jam. Now that’s what i’m talking about.

Alex went the healthier route and had buttery winter greens with herbs, pumpkin seeds and a cider vinaigrette, unfortunately though, I was far too preoccupied with my scone to remember to take a photo. Ooops.

Anyway, we moved swiftly, and i do mean swiftly, on, i hadn’t even finished my half a scone before the main courses arrived. Hayls and I both opted for the Huevos Rancheros, 2 scrambly eggs with quesadilla, black beans, guacamole, salsa and bacon, and switched out the home fries for garlic parmesan fries- honestly, who could resist those? Not us that’s for sure. It was good although for my taste needed a lot of salt and pepper. It was also huge, as much as i may have wanted to, i simply could not finish it. Now i’m convinced i took a photo of this but can i find it anywhere? No, i bloody well can’t. Except Hayley just found it, so here it is.

Alex went for one of their Easter brunch specials, similar to Eggs Benedict but with Manchego cheese and Schaaller Weber Black Forest Ham from an old school deli in upstae New York on a buttermilk biscuit. This was a resounding success. Alex is a bit of an Eggs Benedict afficionado, if it’s on a menu, you can pretty much guarantee he’ll order it, so for this to exceed the usual must be something special and i have to say, i tried some and it really was.

I think my only slight complaint would be how quick everything came. Stupid i know but we were all in the mood for a long lazy brunch and whilst we weren’t rushed it all just felt rather fast. Having said that, the staff were very friendly and efficient and would definitely return. They also have a cafe upstairs selling a mouthwatering selection of cakes and pastries, we had declared on the way in that there was no way we were leaving without a cupcake- partly because they look delicious and partly because they had the cutest little chicks and bunnies stuck in them for easter. Sadly however, we were stuffed full to bursting and quite unable to manage it. There are people everywhere in there, many cosied up with a book or a laptop and looking very content, if you’re ever in the area, pop in for a pastry and a coffee and feel like a local. 

After brunch we walked home the long way round in an attempt to walk it off somewhat, and beacuse Boston is beautiful in the spring

we walked up to the prudential centre, a big shopping and conference centre and spent a lazy hour ambling about Barnes and Noble, me mainly in the cookbook section where Alex succumbed and bought a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s fantastical feasts which i’m pretty excited to delve into. Once we left there we stumbled on the very unexpected sight of some kind of anime/ fantasy/ video game convention as there were people absolutely everywhere dressed in some of the most elaborate costumes i’ve ever seen. It was truly hilarious and pretty impressive.

That evening we headed to Coppa where they specialise in Italian small plates. After the initial disappointment that the menu had changed and we would therefore be deprived of the arancini and chestnut pasta with wild boar ragu we manned up and got down to the ordering. The 1st thing that grabbed my attention was the special of ricotta gnocchi with a pulled pork ragu- yes please. This arrived looking scrumptious but the pork was a little heavy on the fennel for both me and Hayley. The gnocchi were perfect though, little and light with just enough hint of cheese.

One of highlights of the meal for me was the meatballs, perfectly textured, juicy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce and then topped off with a slice of lardo, making the whole thing unctuous and rich and moreish as hell- we practically wiped the bowl clean with bread.

At the same time as the meatballs arrived, so did the pig’s tail. Now this is something I was definitely not such a fan of. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not something i would necessarily choose. It has a very strong taste, and although the texture of the meat is good, the skin is pretty tough. Having said all that, Alex thinks it’s great, he’s had it here before and was the one that wanted to order it, so, each to their own i guess.

Alex’s other must have order was squid ink pasta with calamari, octopus and olives in a tomato sauce, this was good too, although i think Alex was pretty glad that Hayley and i left most of it to him.

There was another special on the menu that night that simply sounded too good to resist, a leg of lamb steak from a lamb that had been butchered in house sat atop a bed of creamy, garlicy, cheesy polenta with a mint salsa verde. This one was a real hit and miss. Flavourwise it was a big hit, the polenta was some of the best i’ve ever had, velvety and utterly scrummy. The big let down was the texture of the lamb itself, whilst it tasted great, and was cooked to perfection, it was tough and that was pretty hard to get past. If the texture had been there it would have been the dish of the night- hands down, so that was pretty frustrating.

One of the other real highlights was the salsiccia pizza, spicy italian pork sausage, red onion, mozarella and chilli oil. Cooked until the base was crisped and just the right amount of charred, the cheese was gooey and the sausage and chilli added just a hint of spice. It was great and to be honest I could have quite happily eaten the whole thing.

Lastly we had a mackerel dish that Chef Jamie very kindly sent over. It wasn’t on the menu yet and all three of us will confess to not being the hugest mackerel fans so were mildly nervous tucking in, we shouldn’t have been. Beautifully cooked mackerel on a bed of jerusalem artichoke puree that complemented it perfectly, a really good way to end the meal.

I say that was the last thing we had but we caved and had a cheese plate too (which we attacked so fast there was but a morsel left by the time i remembered the camera). This was wonderful, we had a Bayley Hazen Blue, a Taleggio and a cheese that for the life of me i can’t remember the name, just that it was our least favourite. The other two we loved and basically fought over though (don’t get me wrong, we ate the 3rd one, it just wasn’t as popular!) especially when the blue was paired with the poached hibiscus flower and the taleggio with a blood orange compote. Heavenly.

All in all Coppa was good, the staff are friendly and knowledgeable and the whole place runs very smoothly, the people in charge certainly know what they’re doing and as a result you feel welcome, comfortable and relaxed. I think our main problem was having been to Toro first. If you’re planning on going to both, please do Coppa first as it’s so well done, I think we had just been spoiled by Toro and spent the evening comparing the two which was possibly unfair as they’re very different – Toro definitely has my heart though, hands down. It has a great wine selection as well, we ended up getting a carafe of the Valpolicella which was full bodied enough to satisfy but still complemented the food. Also, don’t be an idiot like us and get excited by one particular thing on the menu before you go. One of the great things about this place is that the menu is constantly changing so you can go back again and again.