08 July 2016

At Padella, Simple Pasta Pans Out Perfectly

Lining the shelves of the central, open-plan kitchen at Padella are dozens and dozens of steel pans. This is hardly surprising: the Borough Market restaurant's name means 'pan' and the main section of its menu consists solely of pasta dishes. I'd never been to the restaurant's older sister — the hugely successful Highbury-based Trullo — but Padella's stylish but unpretentious restaurant and superb pasta has already won it plaudits.

My family and I arrived at 6:30 on a Monday evening and there wasn't yet a queue, but we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table for four. Spaces for smaller parties opened up more quickly. By the time we left, the line was much longer and the photo above was taken at 6:45 last night. The lesson is clear: go early and go in small groups, unless you are happy to queue.

There are two dozen seats on the ground floor, most at the bar that circles the kitchen, although we landed a small booth, which lined with sleek black wood and marble. The view of the pasta chefs wasn't as good but it was a much better seating arrangement for a group of four. The atmosphere was lively and the service never felt rushed, despite the growing queue.

They serve a few (Italian) cocktails and a few beers and wines on tap, which were reasonably priced. It felt too early in the week for a negroni, so I had a glass of prosecco (£4.50). The menu included a handful of antipasti, six pastas and three puddings. Between us, we tried almost everything. The antipasti were mostly around £5, and although the burrata and salame were delicious, the marinated spinach with chilli, garlic and anchovy was the real standout. The sourdough was very good too, although given the carb loading that was about to ensure, it may have been a tactical error.

The pastas cost between £5.50 and £9 and the waiter recommended that three dishes shared between two people was about the right amount (one would probably be enough if you also had a couple of antipasti and/or a pudding). We all wanted to try the pappardelle with beef shin ragù (£9), so we ordered three servings between the four of us. It was as good as I was expecting with a really rich, flavourful ragù, perfect pasta and a healthy grating of parmesan.

I also tried the pici cacio e pepe (£6.50), which I had heard was one of Padella's signature dishes. Cacio e pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish that is as simple as it is delicious: cacio means 'cheese' and pepe 'pepper' and it involves little more than a ton of parmesan and black pepper. Padella's take was seriously peppery, which made it a perfect partner to the richness of the ragú. Pici are a Tuscan pasta that resemble chunky spaghetti; they are made from flour and water but no egg.

We didn't really have room for pudding but somehow my sister-in-law and I ended up ordering a cherry and almond tart to share (£4), which was sweet, sharp and rich. I tried a few mouthfuls of my mum's salted caramel ice cream (£4), which had a delicious, complex flavour.

Our meal was excellent and very reasonably priced for the quality of food. I just hope that when I go back (because a prompt return is inevitable) the tagliatelle with nduja, marscapone and parsley is still on the menu because I would really like to try it.

Padella. 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ (Tube: London Bridge). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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