I think we can all agree that 2016 was The Year of The Pasta for London restaurants. The big news, obviously, was Padella - rightly winning awards left, right and centre (not least as OFM's Best Cheap Eats), but there was also Veneta, Luca, Wolf and more springing up and doing good things. And now, Palatino is here, from Stevie Parle (he of Rotorino, Craft, Dock Kitchen and Sardine).
Palatino bills itself as an Italian restaurant specialising in Roman food - so plenty of delicious fried little niblets - and has made lots of people dribble over its own version of Cacio e Pepe since its opening in January. I couldn't wait to go and booked it for our wedding anniversary dinner.
A quick stop off at The Magic Roundabout and we journeyed our way through funny little residential streets over to Clerkenwell. It's kind of an odd place, and feels a bit like a very modern office building but inside is beautifully designed, splashes of yellow and loads of light even on a dark February night, plus there's a bar area with stools for you to grab a pre-dinner drink. I opted for the Palatino Spritz which was a long, bitter version of the standard with some pine notes.
The menu is split into the usual antipasti / primi / secondi format, and of course we ordered too much of them all. First up, moreish morsels fried sage to dip in apple and honey vinegar, arriving with an indecently creamy stracciatella and anchovy toast (a must-order) and a refreshing little crab dish.
This is essentially the middle of a burrata. You need it:
Order it for the crab, stay for the aggretti.
I was daunted by this point. Pasta was en route and I knew we'd been greedy. The Cacio e Pepe made an appearance and was everything we'd expected and more. A close run thing to the one at Padella; this was possibly lighter, silkier and less peppery.
I'd done some Instagram stalking and knew full well I was ordering the gnocchi alla Romana with sage butter, because look at it:
They were unlike any gnocchi before; impossibly light and fluffy, yet still so rich that I feared for my main. It came regardless.
On the left is the saltimbocca (a giant piece of veal wrapped in prosciutto) with spinach and marsala It's not for the fainthearted, as you can see. Big flavours going on. The parmesan polenta, top left, was unnecessary but not regretted. There's onglet steak with salsa rosso top right, which was ten times better than it had any business being thanks to some skilled Josper action - deep, dark charring on the outside, perfectly rare inside. The fennel and pomegranate side salad was clean and crisp and refreshing, but rightly bitter. We didn't need it.
Nor did we need pudding, but that didn't stop us. I ordered some kind of sour cherry, chocolate whipped cream thing and you just can't go wrong with that combination. Rich had a lemon tart, which was fine but not my thing. We mostly ordered them to justify a dessert wine each (moscato for me, lovely). Then a limoncello, obviously. A bottle of Puglian red had done a good job with the rest of it - the wine list is exclusively Italian.
The damage was about £170, which we felt was more than reasonable and we'd definitely rush back for more. Yes please.