Italian dining in London has experienced an upsurge in quality recently with a number of high-end, high-quality, Michelin endorsed places opening in the last decade. In all the excitement, the humble bowl of pasta, lightly adorned with enough sauce to compliment, rather than drown it, has been somewhat left behind. Enter Padella.
These clever people saw a gap in the market for real quality, housemade pasta and did something about. There really is nothing more emblematic of Italian cuisine than their celebration of the best and freshest ingredients, modestly done and with elegance – we love it.
It’s amazing that an idea of this clarity hasn’t been done more often, especially in a city constantly in search of a quick, cheap bite. Padella is a ‘pasta bar’, with a no reservations policy (see long queue), a whole load of bar seating and buzz. Bowls of amazing pasta are served fast and fresh, so the turnaround is quick – what looks an intimidating queue moves briskly. This hustle and bustle could overwhelm an establishment doing complicated multi-ingredient plates, but Padella is always efficient and delicious, as dishes rely on utter faith in a few well chosen ingredients. With restraint at the heart of the operation, the menu is brief and focused, with just a handful of pasta dishes and a little bread to mop up every last morsel of sauce. That’s it – no frills, in and out with speed – the perfect pitstop for the busy Londoner.
Located opposite London Bridge and next to Borough Market, if you’re stepping out of the tube station you’ll see it immediately, probably because of the heaving queue snaking around the block.
There is a buzz from both the clientele and the open kitchen which create a really convivial mood. You feel equally at home having a rowdy conversation and clinking glasses as you do gawping at just how much fresh pasta these chefs get through.
The food, and especially the pasta itself, is the star of the show here – don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking otherwise. Beautifully fresh, firm pasta is served in a number of styles, from pappardelle to ravioli, always with an emphasis on modest saucing or dressing to bring the best out of the pasta itself. Prices rarely go above a tenner and most linger nearer the five pound mark – which is a steal in central London so ridiculous that we are half reluctant to scream about it so enthusiastically.
The drinks list is short, to the point and reasonable. A couple of very drinkable craft beers and ales on tap, and a choice of 6 wines by glass or bottle, suit the whole ethos of the restaurant perfectly.
A lot of visitors here are drawn to the 8 hour braised beef shin over papperdelle, but the number one dish without question is their pici cacio and pepe. It seems to capture everything that Padella is about in one mouthful. The sauce uses quality parmesan, butter and black pepper. That’s it. The incredible pici pasta itself, wormlike in appearance, has the bite of al dente that every good pasta should, but also bounce owing to its thickness. It is more-ishness made from flour and water – this pasta doesn’t even contain eggs. The very essence of the restaurant, the clarity and honesty, is personified in one bite of this dish.
A middle finger to London prices, a swatting away of London restaurant pretensions, Padella does the best bowls of pasta in the capital, in a room that exudes generosity and geniality, and remains very true to the soul of great Italian cooking.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 12-4pm & 5-10pm. Sunday12-5pm