Review: Perfect Pasta At Padella, London Bridge
Do you remember when eating Italian in London meant gargantuan bowls of mediocre lasagna, red and white checked tablecloths and wine in wicker holsters? Pre-grated parmesan came with its own particular vomit-y back note, plus the threat of the giant peppermill looming over your shoulder, going in for the supervised grind.
Nothing wrong with all that, you might say. Well, fair enough, but there’s long been a gap for affordable, high-quality Italian food. We wanted to appreciate an emphasis on ingredient sourcing and simplicity of the kind we see at The River Café and Bocca di Lupo, but without the accompanying bank loan.
Zucca happily gave us this before they were tragically forced to close last year due to 'landlord issues', but we have Trullo, a buzzy Islington trattoria loved by locals and everyone else. Now, they've decided to bring us Padella, a fast-casual pasta bar concept near Borough Market and boy, is it good.
There’s a little more to the menu than carbs, and so we start with a game-changing carpaccio of beef. Often it can be a sad thing — too-cold meat on a plate, like a skin graft waiting to happen. Add a fistful of rocket, balsamic drizzle and some halved cherry tomatoes and you’ve got yourself a starter from 80% of restaurants during the 90s. The carpaccio at Padella is rustic and beautiful; topped with crunchy sea salt and very good olive oil, our forks clashed as we raced to eat it.
The pasta comes in portions which some may find too small, but for the price and quality, it makes sense (£5-£10 per dish). Pici cacio e pepe was thick, hand-rolled spaghetti - fat, wiggly strands coated in a sauce made with Parmesan and black pepper. A classic from Roman cuisine, the pasta cooking water must be mixed vigorously with the cheese so that it melts but doesn’t clump together. When right, it’s a perfect, simple pleasure. Padella had it bang on, the sauce creamy and barbed with pepper.
Ravioli of ricotta with sage butter was another argument-starter as we stared down the last one. Butter slicked over pads of ricotta with extra Parmesan for good measure; make sure to upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #cleaneating — this will annoy the carb and fat-dodging brigade.
Our final pasta was tagliatelle with smoked eel, cream and parsley. The rich, oily eel was typically intense with aggressively al dente tagliatelle, a brilliant Italo-cockney mash up.
Desserts weren’t needed but that's not the point. A chocolate cake was like mousse in slab form and therefore dangerously light, an almond cake both crumbly and syrupy at the same time. The only bum note came in the form of rhubarb sticks on top, which were hard and inedible.
You get the gist by now — we loved Padella, although we think some may find the portion size stingy. On the one hand, it’s nice to avoid a 2pm carb-coma, on the other it might not be enough to satisfy at dinnertime, when most would want two dishes per person, pushing up the cost. We say just go with the flow; drop in, eat quickly and greedily amongst the rising steam, and join us in celebrating this temple to carbohydrates.
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ. No reservations. Londonist was invited to a preview of Padella.
Last Updated 14 April 2016