London’s pasta credentials are in the healthiest (is that the right word?) shape they’ve ever been. Here are six reasons why.
Padella, whether or not you haven’t heard enough of it by now, ticks all the boxes for most people looking to dine out in London. It’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s casual, and it’s at the top of many lists (including this one) when we’re talking about quality hand-made pasta. Even one and a half years after opening, the line of hungry punters out the door and round the corner into Borough Market are a case in point. Wear a warm jacket. Bring a travel Scrabble set. Pocket a hipflask. Whatever is is, do what you can to brave that queue.
Bocca di Lupo
Jacob Kennedy and Victor Hugo (not that one) opened Bocca di Lupo in Soho ten years ago. Maybe that suggests how reliable it’s become for its no-frills dishes of spaghetti with sea urchin, butter and lemon; or braised milk-fed lamb intestines with tomato. Or maybe it’s a reflection of how well they source their ingredients from Italian suppliers, when not making them themselves. Many things – such as their bread, sausage, pickles and pasta – are made in house.
15 years ago, Stevie Parle ‘blagged’ his way into the River Café kitchen, a restaurant bordering on legendary status not least because of its minimalist, comforting approach to Italian fare. Now, Stevie’s one of London’s most successful restaurateurs, and is fast becoming known as that guy who more than knows his way around a pasta machine. After a few other restaurants, he opened Pastaio last year, which as you might guess, is an ode to boiled dough. When it’s on the menu, go for the grouse, pork and veal agnoli.
Padella’s older brother, Trullo, was knocking out the now-famous 8-hour beef shin pappardelle before Padella was even a twinkle in the eye. Indeed, like Padella, dishes change regularly – blink and that chargrilled quail starter has gone from the menu. At least you can expect a few of nonna’s classics – such as pici with black pepper and parmesan, and ricotta ravioli with sage butter – to always stick around.
While growing up in England, surrounded by English food, Angela Hartnett – now undoubtedly one of the UK’s best chefs – was weaned on a diet of fresh pasta made by her Italian grandmother and aunts. It makes perfect sense, then, that her restaurant should manifest accordingly as a British-Italian hybrid, where the ideas and techniques are from her family’s heritage, but the ideas are inspired by what’s good and available closer to home. Hartnett also owns the less formal Café Murano restaurants in St. James and Covent Garden.
Theo Randall at the InterContinental
It almost seems like the wrong idea to take pasta, such a rustic thing as it is, off the figurative grandmother’s kitchen table and into a fine dining environment of white tablecloths and immaculately dressed servers. But that’s what Mr Randall, another River Café alumnus, has done, and to a good degree of success. Here Theo’s pasta shines – from the mushroom pappardelle to the brown shrimp taglierini.
Still hungry? Discover more perfect pasta at new-ish openings like Flour & Grape, Via Emilia, Passo, and Marcella, or stay tuned for Bancone – an Italian restaurant with an ex-Locanda Locatelli chef opening this April.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.