A great thing about training for the marathon is that eating large amounts of pasta is not just allowed, it is actively encouraged. The thing about a bowl of pasta is that it has the ability to transcend any mood, from providing a big bowl of comfort, to an all hands on deck, raucous family affair or as a celebratory offering for someone you love.
When we heard that Trullo, the great Italian establishment in Islington, had opened up a sister pasta bar, Padella, myself and fellow pasta loving girl Chelsie had to go. So last Friday after work, we trekked across London on the hunt for delicious carbs and by jove were we not disappointed.
Padella is situated at 6 Southwark Street in front of Borough Market. Weirdly it is in the same site where Caiger & Co held their 2014 Christmas pop up. My first job as a chef in London, great memories were made in that place. Now its rustic appearance has been entirely transformed into a restaurant that looks modern and smart with every area of space maximised for seating.
From the street Padella is striking. Floor to ceiling windows, lined with a row of tables that face outwards, creates atmosphere and the impression of busyness whilst flooding the smaller upstairs restaurant with light. As is the trend, upstairs places host to a completely open kitchen in the form of a central bar. Downstairs feels more traditional. It is sophisticated with low lit lighting, a drinks bar and seating for larger parties.
A no reservations restaurant, we are lucky enough to get a seat at the bar which for a pair of pasta enthusiasts is prime location to watch the four chefs at work. An energetic but calm service is ensuing. As we eat our way through the menu the guy on antipasti engages in some banter whilst patiently answering our many questions.
The drinks menu like the food is concise. With two white wines on offer Chelsie orders a fruity wine from Sussex. Regrettably, due to the marathon, I stick to lemonade.
We start with the Dexter beef fillet carpaccio, Bruschetta with baked borlotti beans & salsa rossa and Burrata with Puglian olive oil. The carpaccio is given a kick with a good grinding of coarse black pepper that compliments the butteriness of the meat. The burrata, of the best quality imaginable, was heavenly with the olive oil. I always admire restaurants who are so confident in their produce that they are able to serve it with nothing else. The woman sat to our left struck us with her genius, if a little uncouth, idea of spooning the burrata into her slow cooked tomato tagliarini.
Our final appetiser was the bruschetta. One slice of bread toasted quite dark, on one of those machines you find at breakfast in a hotel, then rubbed with garlic and topped with an intensely flavoursome sauce with borlotti beans. The chef told us that the beans are cooked in a mirepoix (carrots, onion and celery) with stock and aromatics. You then remove the beans, blitz the veg and recombine giving the sauce an incredible depth of flavour that tastes more beany than the beans themselves.
Next, were the already acclaimed pasta dishes. After much deliberation we chose Pici cacio e pepe and Tagliatelle with nduja and parsley. Both pastas were as you would expect, fresh and cooked to perfection.
The nduja tagliatelle was new to the menu that night, delicious but not for the faint hearted. The sauce was made entirely from the melted spicy sausage with the addition of parsley. Some more parsley would have been nice, however it was lip tingling delicious.
The pici was the star of the show. Pronounced ‘peachy’ this thick almost wormy like pasta may not look the most compelling but trust me when I say it was a revelation. To see it in a picture denies the incredible bite of the pasta or the intensity and richness of a sauce that is made solely from butter, parmesan, black pepper and more parmesan. In the words of Time Out brown food is definetly back.
After debating whether it would be socially acceptable to order a third pasta, we settled on having both desserts on the menu that evening – a Chocolate and Almond & rhubarb tart.
The chocolate tart was infinitely rich and mousse like, everything you could hope for in a chocolate pud whilst the almond tart surprised us with its pleasingly coarse texture and delectably crisp sugar shell. Its accompaniment of two strands of rhubarb, whilst visually appealing, were too long to share and too stringy to be cut with a fork. This minor critique aside, the desserts, as everything prior on the menu, were excellent.
The portion sizes at Padella are small, the man next to us ordered a second pasta to fill him up, that being said the prices are brilliant. This affordability means that if you are hungry you won’t feel guilty about ordering antipasti and a dessert. Given it is sold as a pasta bar, Padella is the ideal place if you are lucky enough to work in the area and you are a bit peckish after work.
Padella has a self assurance uncommon for such a recent opening, given in part from the success of its mother restaurant Trullo. The team are clearly experienced and understand that such a stripped back concept relies heavily on uncompromisingly good produce and execution. I will certainly be back to try everything.
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ £ 9/10