London hasn’t been short of great Neapolitan style and sourdough pizzas in the last 5 years. I love a pizza, but what I never could understand was why nobody had applied the same approach to great handmade pasta. There are restaurants serving very good pasta in London, but mostly at the high end. Pasta takes effort and expertise but isn’t necessarily expensive so that wasn’t making any sense to me. At last someone has opened a pasta restaurant, and it is great. All hail Padella.
Padella – handmade pasta at Borough Market
Padella is from the team behind Trullo, an Italian restaurant and local favourite in Highbury, which has become a destination too for their pasta and fiorentina steaks. I really enjoyed it, but it is a little far from my corner of South London and so I have not made it as much as I would like. Padella, on the other hand is a short hop up the Northern Line, and wedged into Borough Market by the entrance.
I say wedged, but what greeted me was a bright stylish space with high ceilings, and a gorgeous clash of black and white in different patterns. Black and white honeycomb tiles and black and white marble counters (very instagram, but also very Italian). The chefs cook behind an open bar, and the seats are arranged by the window and counters with one larger table upstairs. There is a downstairs area with more tables too.
I had just hopped off the plane from Ireland at London City Airport. I had my suitcases, but I also had a strong desire which overtook any sensible need to get home and unpack everything. I wanted something very good to eat, something swift, and relatively inexpensive. I had a list of places that I wanted to try and Padella won.
I grabbed a perch in the bright window, it was a lovely sunny day. The menu is short and sharp with 4 starters, 6 pastas and 2 desserts. There are 2 London beers on tap, 2 red and white wines on tap, prosecco and bollicine by the bottle, 3 cocktails and some digestifs. Coffees are espresso based, and the prices are all very reasonable (wine is £3-5 by the g;lass, cocktails and £5-6). I liked that the pastas had variety both in shapes and sauces, and also that they weren’t entirely wedded to Italian regional pastas, and were being quite creative.
Beans are so underrated and often sad, served bloated from tins soaked in salt and sugar and rendered flavourless by their time there. I adore beans, dried and fresh. I have a whole section on them in my first cookbook, including batch cooking them. I always have lots in my kitchen. The borlotti beans on the bruschetta starter here were plump, proud and stretched out in a salsa rossa, served on crusty bread. An excellent beans on toast, and a perfect appetiser.
It is rare to see cacio e pepe on a restaurant menu in London, and here it is served with handmade pici which had a wonderful texture. A little misshapen and toothsome, caressing the cheesy sauce. Cacio e pepe is one of the 4 pillars of roman pastas, traditionally made with pecorino romano and black pepper, made fluid with some energetic tossing with the pasta, along with some pasta cooking water. Here, (I heard the server tell the person next to me), they use parmesan, black pepper and a little butter (in Rome where it is from they use pecorino, and usually just pasta water). It was excellent, soothing anguished parts of me after a tiring (but great) weekend. The portions are on the small side, but the prices are too. With a starter too, I had enough though. And I never need much of an excuse to try a second plate of pasta, especially at that price.
On the side I had a Sicilian red, a Nero d’Avola, on tap (£4.50 for 125ml). A little lunchtime pick me up or maybe knock me down. Either way 125ml wouldn’t do me much harm, and it was great with the cacio e pepe.
My bill with service came to £16.88. I wanted to try everything on the menu, and I will be doing that. Padella has no reservations, but it is open all day, which means it is actually possible to eat there if you are willing to eat outside normal hours. Too many times recently I have had to spike intentions of eating in some of London’s new restaurants because of waiting times upwards of 2 hours. I love food, but when I am hungry, I want to eat. Right?!
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What You Need to Know
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ