Steve Parle’s Palatino:
Opening your first restaurant at 24 and having a small group of distinctive and well-regarded joints in and around London by the time you are 32 is some achievement. Steve Parle’s latest venture, Palatino joins four other places – Dock Kitchen, Rotorino, Craft London, and Sardine each of which has their own unique positioning but all with critical acclaim for the food, the wine lists and the decor. So, an invite to review excited even the discriminating Hedonist, who, in the interests of a quiet life, I left to choose all the food and wine with the exception of my own meaty main.
Starting with a couple of cocktails. The Hedonist’s house spritz was made with cynar, a dark red Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants including artichoke. I wanted a short drink and my Sgroppino wasn’t quite what I was looking for, although a lovely mouthful of lemon sorbet, prosecco, vodka, it was the sort of drink I’d enjoy on a hot summer’s evening rather than as an aperitif in early spring. Next time I’ll stick with a classic White Lady or just stick to wine.
There was bread and water too, Pane Carasau or Piano bread – crisp wafers drizzled in olive oil. I love it, I’m almost certainly wrong and don’t correct me on this one please, but I believe that this kind of bread must be lower in calories – and so I can eat a lot of it…
Meanwhile, The-Hedonist was picking a Roman feast for us.
We started with three antipasti. Fried sage with honey vinegar were delicious whole young leaves dipped in a tempura like batter then deep fried and served with a sour sweet honey mixture.
The prettiest plateful of salt cod crudo with blood orange was served swimming in a pool of 2016 Cappezana olive oil which The-Hedonist in raptures. He’s visited Cappezana, in Tuscany, and rates their oil highly. It’s that kind of detail which makes essentially simple food very special indeed.
And, our final antipasti, a mound of Puntarelle with an anchovy and vinegar sauce was delicious with that slightly bitter saltiness that makes a perfect start to meal. Puntarelle is a kind of chicory popular in Italy and this is the classic way to serve it. At £5 for a healthy sized portion I’d order this every day if was in the neighbourhood.
In the interests of our waistlines we decided to share a Primi, a bowl of Maltagliati with wild garlic. Meaning ‘badly cut’, Maltagliati is a speciality of Emilia-Romagna and is made by first rolling, then cutting flat irregular shapes which are often used in soups. I’m not sure where the wild garlic was sourced from, but I loved this piquant dish laden with grated parmesan.
My main was saltimbocca, which literally means ‘jump in the mouth’ and is a classic Italian dish I’ve tried myself at home. I always like trying the chef’s version and this certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a veal escalope cooked with prosciutto ham, sage and a marsala sauce. Here the sauce was spiked with rosemary too and was almost stickily rich.
My companion ordered the Sea Bream, with onions pine nuts raisins and vinegar. Again, classic flavours from Emilia-Romagna, he raved about the rich sweet flavours of the onion, pine nuts and raisins and the sourness from the vinegar and radiccio
We shared sides of fried potato gnocchi, parmesan and garlic which looked lovely but were rather chewy, a bowl of swiss chard and a salad of fennel, castelfranco pomegranate and lemon, which was light on fennel, but a good contrast particularly for the fish.
My dessert was a decadent plate of chocolate, pistachio and honeycomb. Really very special, I thoroughly enjoyed this mixture of textures and flavours with generous dollops of mascarpone to soften the sweetness of the honeycomb and the bitterness of the chocolate mousse.
The-Hedonist ordered the campari and blood orange sorbet, which made for a light and refreshing way to to end the meal.
Throughout the meal we shared a rather delicious bottle of Nebbiolo, Langhe, G.D Vajra, Piedmont, 2015 with well balanced tannins and light cherry note.
We both really enjoyed the evening. The space is part of a new work/life concept called Fora, which combines work space with hotel and club services so that workers can enjoy good food and a relaxing environment without leaving the office. Ultra contemporary but still very comfortable, it’s the kind of place I’d have loved to be based when I did have an office job.
But, there again, perhaps it’s better for my waistline that I’m NOT too close as I’d definitely be popping in regularly for a bowl of pasta or some of those delicious sage leaves…