Some very good food, some indifferent
It's always difficult to review a restaurant that displays inconsistency not just between visits, but between courses. After our appetisers ( Fried sage & Stracciatella toasts) and pastas (Gnocchi & Bombolotti) we were thinking that maybe here is the replacement for Zucca we've been searching out for over a year now. The sage and gnocchi in particular got lots of points. After the main courses the debate was whether we'd go back at all.
In some ways its unsurprising, for a visit to the same stable's Craft restaurant near the O2 left us with pretty much the same reaction- some courses really good; some that just didn't work very well at all. Both in bland locations with little to offer apart from the restaurant itself, and both not having the ambiance or appearance of a gourmet restaurant. Neither are places that scream "special occasion" and indeed Palatino could just about pass for an "All Bar One " or similar. But their common ground isn't all bad, by any means. Both have a young, enthusiastic, helpful staff; and both are turning out food that is occasionally very good, and often pretty unusual.
I don't always agree with Square Meal's reviews, but they've made a comment here that I'd strongly support. Enjoy the appetisers, pasta and wine, but ignore the short and frankly unprepossessing list of mains. My wife's saltimbocca started off as a not brilliant piece of veal, and wasn't cooked well. My onglet was neither tasty nor tender (Ok not the easiest cut to get right, but they chose to serve it, and Chez Gerard used to manage it just fine). The virtually dry red sauce with the onglet detracted from it. The sides of chard and polenta were dull. The espresso was far too acidic for my taste- but then in my view independent restaurants could do well to achieve the same coffee flavours as the big chains who depend entirely on it and can't afford to serve a blend that alienates some people.
The restaurant had been open three weeks when we visited. Maybe it needs time to settle. But I think some thought needs to go into those main courses- what they are and how they're procured and cooked, if this is to be a restaurant of note. Our bill for appetiser, two courses each and half a litre of wine and coffees was £90, which we'd have been happier to pay had those mains (again) provided much satisfaction.
I'll end on the location. It's not the easiest place to get to by tube , a bit easier by bus. Its not a pretty area and not the most interesting area for a post-prandial stroll. All this throws a lot of weight onto the food!