Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Padella, London Bridge

It's such a simple concept that it's a wonder no one thought of it already. But in a climate where you can't move for courgetti and people spiralising the shit out of our poor, unsuspecting root vegetables - M&S now sell 'noodles' made from butternut squash. I ask you! - I am glad that common sense has prevailed and the people of London are queuing up to get their forks twirling around some proper carbs. 

Padella is a cute little spot, and comes from the people that started Trullo, an Italian restaurant in Islington that's always really busy, and still turning out some incredible food at prices that won't make your eyes water. Their signature dish was braised beef shin ragu, served with pappardelle, and the popularity of that dish paved the way for a pasta-centric casual restaurant. It's by Borough Market, and you'll know it by the queue that now snakes out of its door.

I went during the press preview for lunch, and I loved the marble-topped tables and the high bar where you can watch the chefs preparing each dish. I found the squid ink tagliarini, dotted with mussels and deep with the flavour of the sea, to be a little gritty, the pici cacio e pepe (that's a hand-rolled noodle-like pasta in cheese sauce) a little too chalkily al dente. But that beef shin ragu with large, flappy pasta folds was good as ever, a delicate shaving of parmesan decorating the plate. Promise shone through.

A few weeks later I went back and after queuing an hour with a friend, happily nattering away, we sat down ravenous and resolved to order pretty much everything. This time we were seated in the cavernous basement, tables lining the walls, another bar overlooking the drinks preparation area. Burrata was served simply dressed with fruity olive oil, and a refreshing radicchio, watercress and rocket salad was bitter and properly peppery, reviving our palates for what was to come. A little salt on the leaves goes a long way. Tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley was, as the waitress warned, nose-runningly spicy. Those delicate ribbon-like folds of pasta were a masterpiece. 

This time, the pici cacio e pepe was cooked perfectly, with a strong black pepper flavour coming through. Is anything so simple, so satisfying? Cheese, pepper, butter, pasta. I'm not sure. We waited for our third pasta dish, while the serving staff, obviously harried from the busy dining rooms, rushed past. Our beef shin pappardelle had been forgotten, but no matter, as in catching their attention we were then able to order the other three pasta dishes we'd also had our eye on. 

Tagliatelle with smoked eel and amalfi lemon was generous and rich, though comparatively it became a little one-note in flavour, the smokiness overwhelming.

You know what this is. It's that glorious beef shin pappardelle. It tasted like the beef had been braised in butter, so tender and flavoursome was it. We questioned whether that width was regulation pappardelle size, and then we realised we didn't care, as we gobbled it up.

Pesto will never taste the same again, after a sterling dish of Stracci Genovese. Stracci are sheets of pasta, torn into irregular pieces, wafer-thin and silky. Made properly with potatoes and green beans, the pesto was bright with basil.  

Ravioli of ricotta with sage butter was somewhat lacking in the flavour of sage, but when you're eating dreamy pillows of cloud, little else matters. I'd like more sage flavour though. 

Reader, six pasta dishes between two are possibly too much. One is not enough though, so take my advice and avoid wobbling home like an over-stuffed walrus and stick with two per person. You'll thank me for it. 

Obviously we were far too stuffed to even contemplate dessert, but if the lemon tart from the press preview is anything to go by, they are simple and accomplished and perhaps should not be missed if you are a sweet lover. 

With a bill of £90-ish including a litre of wine which surely would have fed 3, or even 4 petite eaters, Padella is so affordable I'd go every day if it weren't for the queues. I also have a horrifying suspicion I'd soon resemble Queen Victoria in her later years, so people of London, do me a favour and keep that queue up. 

I never thought I'd say that. 

6 Southwark Street


Katie said...

I loved it too and feel similarly conflicted about the queue situation! Couldn't believe the value either for what's up there with the best pasta I've had in London. Would it be crazy to dream/imagine they could franchise this and spread it around the city...

Pasta Bites said...

I must admit... as an italian, I would never queue one hour for a plate of pasta. It would be quicker to make it myself! Everyone says how good it is.. and your photos do look very good.

Hollow Legs said...

Pasta Bites - It depends on how you see the queue situation. I hadn't seen my friend in a while so it was just like going for a pre-dinner drink. Just minus the drink.