SquareMeal Review of Padella Borough
Padella is the unassuming pasta restaurant that has spawned what feels like a thousand imitators since its debut in 2016, and was without doubt the catalyst for London’s fresh pasta revolution.
Found right next to foodie hub Borough Market, Padella is often packed to the rafters. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings and while the advent of a ‘digital queue’ means you can head off for pre-dinner drinks, you’ll still have to wait a couple of hours for a table most nights.
Once you’ve made it through the doors, you’ll find a tightly packed space that’s split across two floors. The low-lit black-and-gold basement dining room is a cosy spot, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself seated at the marble-topped counter on the ground floor, which overlooks the open kitchen. It’s here where the real action happens, and as we watched the chefs play with parmesan and butter while preparing the dishes, the excitement in the room was palpable.
Wherever you end up sitting though, the concise daily menu will never disappoint, with the hand-rolled pasta being the obvious star of the show. The most famous dish is the cacio e pepe and with good reason: thick ropes of pasta that are drenched in butter and arrive topped with a snowdrift of grated parmesan.
Elsewhere, try the likes of the beef shin ragu, which one reader hailed as “the most satisfying pasta dish I have ever had”. A few plates of the pasta is enough to fill you up, but if you want the traditional three-course experience, you can bookend your meal with antipasti (burrata, bruschetta etc) and desserts such as salted caramel ice cream or chocolate tart.
The wine list keeps things simple with just three cocktails, three beers and four Italian wines on top, while there’s also the option to BYO if you pay £10 corkage. Remarkably affordable prices for the area are a further draw, while staff who “really know their stuff” will ensure that your meal goes off without a hitch.
About Padella Borough
Before Padella came along, pasta was something that impoverished students ate or restaurant diners would order as an alternative to a main course (with the greedy eating pasta as part of the traditional four-course Italian meal).
Padella changed all of that. The big idea here is to shrink pasta down to small-plate size and order it as one would any sharing-plates, tapas-style menu. The pici cacio e pepe, squidgy cylinders of pasta slicked with cheese and scattered with pepper, is the house speciality, while other classics include pappardelle with beef-shin ragu and tagliarini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon.
Vegetarian options are good – gnocchi with nutmeg butter or straci with sweet onion, thyme and Gorgonzola, say – while non-pasta dishes extend to some salady antipasti and a trio of puddings.
To drink, there are four wines available on tap, British beers and some rather alluring aperitivi, from prosecco or homemade lemonade to fruity spins on the Negroni, Americano and Spritz.
The food and drink isn’t the only aspect of Padella that is bang-up-to-date. Like nearly every hot new opening in London, Padella is no bookings, though given how reasonable the prices are – over half the pasta dishes cost under £8 – it’s not surprising how many people are willing to wait for a table here.
Expect to queue not only at peak times but any time. Even before the doors open, a line of would-be diners stretches round the corner well into Borough Market, while waits of two hours are not uncommon if you turn up at a time you may actually wish to eat, such as 7pm.
The solution? Arrive by yourself and you may very well be shown straight to a stool at the counter by the open kitchen. Even better, you won’t have to share any of your food.