I was booked on an urban beekeeping workshop with the Guild of Food Writers in Bermondsey this afternoon, starting at 2.30pm, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to make a second attempt to get into nearby Padella, right by Borough Market and London Bridge.
Queues to get into Padella, which doesn’t take reservations, are so famous that you can google suggestions for ‘how to beat the queue at Padella’. There’s not really a way to beat the queue – you simply have to be prepared to wait. On my first attempt to eat there I didn’t have time; I was on my way to the theatre and in too much of a hurry. Today I reckoned that if I turned up half an hour before opening time at 12 noon (one online suggestion), with a couple of hours free before I had to head to the workshop, surely I’d get in …
Padella has been open for about 3 years and I’ve heard great things about it. It’s won awards (like Observer Food Monthly‘s ‘Best Cheap Eat 2016’), has been listed as one of the best places in London for pasta, and so how could I not queue and try it out!
I arrived at 11.38am. There was – of course! – a queue.
A chill wind was blowing through the arched entrance into Borough Market; I’d no idea how long it would take me to get in and I had 22 minutes to wait until they opened. I didn’t know how big it was inside; how many could they seat? How quickly would the queue move? I couldn’t help asking myself whether it was worth it.
However, I waited and at noon the queue started moving. Slowly. A few people were let in and then it stopped for a while. Then it moved again. Actually, it didn’t really take that long to get in; I’m not sure exactly how many minutes but it seemed that suddenly I was being ushered in in a friendly manner, led down the stairs to the basement (a larger dining area than the small upstairs bar area) and shown to a stool at the bar. A waiter was almost immediately at my side and introduced himself, saying he’d be looking after me. And he did. None of that fake ‘friend’ stuff of ‘my name’s … ‘ that I can’t quite cope with in some places, but just a sign of efficiency with a smile and someone always at hand when you needed them.
You come here for pasta. Padella ‘is the culmination of Tim and Jordan’s long held dream to open a pasta bar serving fresh, hand rolled pasta with delicious sauces and fillings inspired by their trips to Italy’ the website tells us (they also have a smarter restaurant – Trullo – in Islington). There are 11 different kinds of pasta on offer (and one gnocchi dish). There’s tagliarini, pici (which I ate a lot in Siena last year), ravioli, pappardelle … In Italy the shape of our pasta is very important; it must match the kind of sauce you plan to serve with it. I could happily have eaten any dish on offer. They ranged in price from £4 to £11.50.
There were also 5 starters and 3 puddings.
I liked being at the bar and there was a certain excitement in having the cooking and food preparation so close to me that I could have reached out and joined in the stirring or chopping.
Glasses of wine (125ml) ranged in price from £4 to £5. I chose Cabernet/Sangiovese from Tuscany to go with my pasta dish. Water was complimentary – a bottle of still and sparkling was brought straight away for me to choose from.
I’d planned to have just one dish of pasta for lunch; I don’t normally eat a big meal at lunchtime and it was, after all, quite an early lunch, not long after noon. However, I couldn’t resist trying ‘Agretti with Fiorano 2018 olive oil and lemon’ (£5.50). I remember seeing agretti in a market in Rome and have been reading about it in the last few days. Typically grown in coastal regions it’s sometimes known as a ‘land samphire’. There’s certainly a similarity in its appearance – though it’s thinner – and it has a slightly salty, minerally taste. Dressed simply with the olive oil and lemon juice, it was cooked to retain a slight al dente bite and was absolutely delicious.
For my main I chose ‘Pappardelle with 8 hours Dexter beef shin ragu’ (£10).
It was gorgeous; really wonderful. I’ve been treated to some wonderful pasta of late: the fabulous Bancone in London, Pastificio Defilippis in Turin a couple of weeks ago. Padella’s pasta was all I’d heard it to be – first rate and definitely worth queuing for!
All thoughts of a quick one-course pasta lunch were thrown aside. Well, I did have plenty of time until my workshop began. So I ordered a dessert: ‘Rhubarb & Almond Tart’ (£4.50).
It was a simple but perfect slice of dessert heaven, with a nice blob of crème fraîche at the side. No one seemed to being having coffee, perhaps they don’t serve it; I decided to find coffee elsewhere and asked for the bill.
At £28.13, including wine and service, for 3 courses, it was excellent value. The food is fantastic. Go there. But take friends or a book to keep you happy while you queue! I promise it will be worth it.