I would have written about it when I first went had I not been writing about it for someone else, so I accepted but then had to cancel due to sickness. A certain sense of relief came from the cancellation; I had done much agonising over whether I want to do invite-to-reviews anymore. It sounds spoilt of me, but I find the whole process toe-curlingly awkward; from the knowing look when you walk in and tell them your name, to the (usually) desperate to please service and all the time I'm thinking 'god, all this for ME?'. And then you get to that bill stage, or rather the lack of it; the signal to end meals and leave is not there anymore and each time I felt like a criminal asking for my jacket and shuffling out of there without that finality. All that before you even get down to the whole subjectivity argument.
So I decided to go on my own dollar and I'm jolly pleased to report that the pasta was still astonishingly good, the staff still friendly and attentive and packed out on a Tuesday night until 9:30pm, when we managed to nab a last-minute table. After a fortifying quince and prosecco cocktail at the bar, we settled down to our table to order. I wasn't enormously hungry (for once) so I opted for a starter and a pasta.
I love bitter leaves and chicory and dandelion are amongst my favourite. Blood orange segments softened the bitterness somewhat, and the curls of cheese slowly mixed into the dressing, giving it creaminess. A near-perfect balance of flavours.
Obviously I'm going to win photographer of the year with my picture of what can only look like worms in cheese - you'll have to take my word for it that the pici with Amalfi lemon, garlic, marjoram and parmesan was glorious. When asked what pici was, our waiter said it was like a hand-rolled spaghetti, a little thicker and without egg in the dough. Being a huge fan of anything noodle-shaped, I was sold. The pasta was chewy, not soft and the lemon sauce not in the slightest bit astringent but rather more gentle and perfumed. Not cheap at £9 for a small portion, mind.
Beef shin pappardelle was equally well received (and equally dear), though a main course of mackerel cooked on the charcoal grill could have benefitted with a little more time on the heat.
We rounded off our meal nicely with a wibbly-wobbly lemon tart and another bottle of wine before we eventually got the message that perhaps the staff might want to go home. There's often talk of places outside W1 being nice 'neighbourhood' restaurants but I'd cross town for Trullo's pasta so I won't put it in that camp.
300 - 302 St Paul's Road
London N1 2LH
Tel: 020 7226 2733