Pasta. The freshest of pasta made in house every day with homemade sauces and the very best of simple ingredients. That’s all you need to know, really. I’d heard about Padella via Sabrina Ghayour’s Instagram, and figured if Sabrina was a regular who raved about it, it was certainly worth trying. I trust Sabrina. Then one of my colleagues pounced on me one morning and went on and on and on about how it’s the best pasta he’s had in London, and he continued to hound me until I went. They were both right – this is without question some of the best Italian food I’ve had in the city.
I am a long time fan of a ‘small plates’ menu, mainly because I want to try everything in any given restaurant, which I think is totally acceptable. I don’t want to be tied down to one choice, suffering from food envy should my companion have chosen wiser than me. Luckily for me, restaurants going down the small plates route are hugely popular and opening at a rapid rate in London, and Padella is one of them, taking inspiration from traditional Italian small plates. Coming from the team behind Trullo (er hello, one look at that sample menu and I’m now desperate to visit), Padella is based on years of travelling through Italy making and eating a shit tonne of pappardelle. Sounds like the perfect excuse to open a pasta bar if you ask me.
After a 30 minute wait in line for a table (for Padella is one of those no reservations places we don’t mind so much in the summer months but cry about in the winter), we were fortunate to get a table outside on one of the last warm, sunny evenings in September. Vowing to eat as much as we could, we went in hard with an order of four dishes to share as a start to our meal. We went classic with cold meat and cheese with bread and salad – the simplest of European combinations that is always some kind of perfect. The salami was excellent and the burrata spot on (£5), but when is burrata not spot on? Next time I would opt for the spinach with chilli, garlic and anchovy (£5.50) over the radicchio, watercress and rocket salad (£5.50), though it’s not like we didn’t polish it off – the spinach just sounds more interesting. I have apparently memorised the beauty of Padella’s sourdough (£2), crunchy on the crust but so soft and warm on the inside, the perfect accompaniment to soaking up the Puglian olive oil it’s served with. A very solid start.
Despite a great start to our meal, the mains really did steal the show. The ricotta ravioli in sage butter (£7) came out on top, helped by the fact it’s one of my favourite dishes of all time, but therefore at high risk of being judged too harshly. It was second only to some ravioli I’ve had at a wedding in Tuscany, which I swear to God I can still taste if I close my eyes. The ravioli is a must order, as is the pappardelle with 8 hour Dexter beef shin ragu (£8.50), on par with that I’ve eaten in a Florentine trattoria. Tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley (£5.50) was creamy but much spicier than expected – not necessarily a bad thing, and I am certainly one for spice, though I may substitute for fettuccine carbonara next time (£7.50). Or maybe just go with more people and get both? That’s probably a better idea. Also worth a mention – aforementioned colleague of mine still talks about their Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon on a weekly basis, so there are two things we can take away from this: a) you cannot go far wrong choosing between any of the eight mains Padella offer, and b) we thank the pasta Gods once more that Padella is somewhere you are actively encouraged to order multiple dishes to share (around three or four dishes between two).
Desserts came in the form of a chocolate tart, an almond and blueberry tart or salted caramel ice cream. We tried the chocolate and ice cream, and whilst both were pleasant they did pale next to the high standard of the starters and mains, which is perhaps to be expected when the pasta is known to be the star of the show. And for all of this, wager how much the bill came to? Four dishes to start, three pastas, two desserts, and a very decent amount of wine, prosecco and Aperol came to £45pp including service. For this amount of food, I consider this a great deal in a city such as London, and for food of this quality, it’s heaven.
Despite being advised that the tables had a turn around of 1.5 hours per sitting, we didn’t feel rushed whilst we had our meal which is absolutely key. Service was friendly and accommodating, offering drinks to those waiting in the near constant queue that didn’t die down until gone 9pm. Sure, a queue can be off putting and I for one have little patience to wait outside in the cold, but the reward is a great one: a warm, friendly atmosphere with good wine and what surely must be some of London’s best pasta.
6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ
Mon – Sat: 12-4pm; 5-10pm; Sun: 12-5pm