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2 Exmouth Market
A champion of ‘cucina povera’ on Exmouth Market, “pretty perfect Paesan” has all the now-familiar accoutrements made famous by the likes of Polpo – think bare brick walls, rustic furniture, distressed tiles, filament light bulbs and a brown-paper menu. Drinkers can head downstairs to low-lit Paesan Underground for vintage cocktails and homemade limoncello, while hungry types should move on up to the main dining room, where it’s possible to graze happily on antipasti and ‘piccolo’ – little sharing plates, ranging from deliciously creamy Gorgonzola and pumpkin arancini to bruschetta ‘pan santo’ with black kale, pancetta and olive oil. Alternatively, go for something bigger – perhaps a gut-busting trio of meatballs with wet polenta, fennel sausage with lentils and soffritto or a “summery Sicilian special” of bucatini with sardines. Cheap set lunches, Sunday brunch and quaffable wines hit the spot, while keen prices and breezy service bolster Paesan’s fun-loving vibe.
2 Exmouth Market
0207 8377 7139
Kings Cross Thameslink Station 646m
Farringdon Tube Station 658m
London Metropolitan Archives 182m
Sadler's Wells Theatre and Lillian Baylis Theatre 592m
Mon-Sat 12N-11pm (Sat - 11.30pm) Sun 12N-10pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
If what you want is good rustic Italian food then Paesan hits the spot! The ragu is outstanding! Tiramisu is very, very good.
Paesan’s a good ‘un. It looks good, it sounds like good times; hell, it even smells good when something uber-garlicky wafts past. The menu’s simple to navigate, and, unusually for rustic Italian, there’s even plenty to please the pickiest Paleos out there. Oh but with such carby delights on offer, why resist? Bruschetta with pecorino, pea and mint was a wonderfully summery starter, while ‘crochettes’ with anchovy sauce were salty, savoury and delicious. Warm aubergine caponata wouldn’t be my first choice to serve with burrata (particularly on such a scorching day in the city), but it was a rich and unctuous combination. The accompanying pane carasau, a flatbread from Sardinia, was crisp, paper-thin and particularly moreish having been soused with peppery olive oil.
The mains didn’t disappoint either. Risotto was spot on, with an abundance of plump prawns and traces of saffron creating a sunny, amber glow. The Sicilian special of bucatini with sardines was a smidgeon on the sweet side, but still summery, fresh and tasty. The Italian wine list offered welcome tasting notes, and our Bardolino proved to be a fitting food wine for such gutsy dishes. My only qualm was that portions were almost too generous; a vast sea of pappardelle with rabbit and wild mushrooms nearly defeated the biggest man at the table, while I barely made a dent in my trio meatballs on wet polenta.
Puds, served in tumblers, looked fairly ordinary but were utterly gorgeous. Tiramisu was the favourite, but pistachio ice cream with a splash of amaretto came a close second. Espressos were fiercely strong (just as they should be) and topped off a delightful meal.
We loved Paesan. Despite hogging our table for nearly four hours on a busy Thursday night, there were no polite nudges to shift us to the refurbed basement bar. It was decent value too, which is heartening given there’s something really iffy about charging a fortune for ‘peasant’ food. We racked up £50 a head for our whole evening’s entertainment, but that included aperitivos, two bottles of wine and three courses each. Bellissima!
Food + drink: 5
Paesan is a real find, I really enjoyed everything I had from the roasted butternut squash starter to the pork belly to the white chocolate Panna cotta. The whole experience was excellent and one my wife and I will definitely be repeating and recommending. The restaurant itself was a bit on the noisy side but when we were there was filled to capacity. The food was excellent although the menu was slightly limited, but I would always rather a restaurant did a few things well than over stretched themselves. The wine list was good too, having Cannonau Di Sardegna was a nice surprise. The service was sometimes a little hit and miss but they were very busy and the staff themselves were very nice. Well worth a visit.
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