Restaurant review: Palatino, Clerkenwell
This casual joint in Clerkenwell from Stevie Parle (of Dock Kitchen, Craft London and Rotorino fame) celebrates Roman food both old and new
What's the draw:
Parle first visited Rome aged 17, when his employers (Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers at the River Café, no less) packed him off with a long list of recommendations. Palatino is his paean to the food and spirit of the Italian capital, in a setting – exposed ducts and pipes running overhead; marigold-yellow leather banquettes and bare-wood tables – that couldn't be more Clerkenwell if it tried.
What to drink:
Start with a cocktail and make it the Cynar, sour cherry and pine needle house spritz, because (yeah, we're going there, wait for it) when in Rome, and all that. The all-Italian wine list's neatly divided into Classico (classic stuff), Unico (unique stuff) and Speciale (go on, have a guess). We went Unico (natch) and glugged the Sette Vigne 2012 – a dark and spicy red that's surprisingly subtle considering it's made with equal amounts of seven different grapes (corvina, primitivo, barbera, nebbiolo, montepulciano, aglianico and sangiovese, since you asked) from vineyards all over Italy.
What to eat:
If you go to Palatino and don’t start with the fried sage leaves, we're not talking to you anymore. They're so simple and so delicious, you’ll wonder why you haven't been eating them everyday – dipped in tempura, they're fried until crisp and light and served with a tiny pot of honey vinegar to drench them in. Unsurprisingly, the pasta's also fantastic – emerald green, squash-stuffed ravioli are as slippery and aromatic as you'd hope; dinky bombolotti (similar to rigatoni) in a white pork ragu is warming with deliciously meaty undertones. Save room, though, for the brill – its delicate flesh gently permeated with wood smoke – and chicken meatballs, which pack an intense punch that's balanced out by polenta and little shards of pistachio. For dessert, a generous curl of silky-smooth, almost mousse-like, chocolate studded with nuts, honeycomb and a blob of crème fraiche is better, even, than the sum of its parts.
Antipasti from £3; primi from £6.50; secondi from 12.50; wines from £4 by the glass. 71 Central Street, EC1V 8AB; 020 3481 5300; palatino.london