Padella: believe the hype

I am so, so late to the Padella party, it was almost barely worth me turning up.

Almost.

With plaudits from professional critics, local bloggers and the Tripadvisor crowd, if you set store by that sort of thing, Padella is inconveniently popular. I tried to go five times before I actually managed it, because I am ideologically opposed to waiting more than an hour for something as fundamental to survival as lunch. But the pasta is absolutely divine and worth wrapping up for.

After extensive research, i.e. I asked the waitress on the way out, I can tell you that the times to go if you don’t want to freeze your bollocks off are:

  • 11:30am. You’ll have to wait half an hour until it opens but in my personal experience this is early enough to get yourself into the first sitting.
  • 3pm. It closes at 3:45pm so you can usually catch the tail end of the lunch shift with fairly minimal queuing.
  • 4:30pm. See above, it reopens at 5pm.
  • 9pm. Dinner service finishes at at 10pm, except on Sundays when it ends at 9pm.

Padella is one of the few restaurants that fall within that hallowed nucleus between the eclipsing circles of good, fast and cheap. Except it isn’t too fast, like Bao, which doesn’t even serve whole bottles of wine in case it encourages unnecessary lingering. Even with what feels like half of London waiting outside, service is friendly and unhurried. Which obviously is maddening while you’re waiting, but very nice once you get inside.

(The best seats in the house are obviously the ones sat kitchen-side. The worst are the ones looking out the front window, where it’s nearly impossible to avoid the baleful stares of the waiting horde.)

The burrata (£5.50), a buxom ball of overstuffed, impossibly creamy loveliness, came speckled with fresh cracked black pepper and doused in Puglian olive oil. I attacked it like a woman possessed, the bouncy mozzarella crust offering my fork no resistance whatsoever as I tore into it with the frenzied gusto of a psychopath laying into a fresh kill. God bless the Italians for allowing cheese, cream and oil to sit on a plate together as a proper grown-up dish and not, as, for instance, the kind of thing a five year old might want for breakfast on its birthday. Which is what it actually is: dairy-based birthday cake.

The pasta is, predictably, amazing, with only the gnocchi (£4.00) not knocking my socks off, and that’s only because Flank’s version was still turning cartwheels in the (large) part of my brain given over to gluttony. Already drunk on high-fat dairy, I had the acid green spinach ravioli of ricotta and sage butter (£8.50), while Becky had the peppery pappardelle with generous gobs of 8-hour beef shin ragu (£9.00). The pappardelle was bloody good though not unique; Flour and Grape in nearby Bermondsey does a very similar, equally excellent dish. (And they take reservations. In fact, they’re my top alternative recommendation if you can’t be arsed to wait in the cold.) But the ravioli was something special.

We left pudding because we were a) stuffed and b) Konditor and Cook’s ‘Fudgepacker’ brownies are just around the corner. Also because we were going to learn how to do crochet and I didn’t want to fall asleep and accidentally impale myself on a crochet hook.

I am in London for Christmas this year for the first time ever, and I will be taking the opportunity to visit Padella when hopefully everyone else has buggered off elsewhere. You should too – we can be late to the Padella party together.

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.