71 Central St. , EC1V 8AB
0203 481 5300/Palatino.london
Stevie Parle is the enfant terrible of the London restaurant scene. Still in his early 30s he has just opened Palatino, his fifth London restaurant with Rotorino, Dock Kitchen, Craft London and Sardine completing the band. Trained at The River Café, Moro and Petersham Nurseries Stevie covers a variety of styles; from global explorations at Dock Kitchen to Craft’s Britishness and now a focus on Roman food at Palatino, named after the eternal city’s Palatine Hill. Can he keep the standard up with five places? And with Isaac McHale’s new Italian joint Luca in the locality is Clerkenwell, traditionally an Italian neighbourhood, big enough for the two of them? Palatino sits on the ground floor of Fora, an office concept that combines the services you get in a hotel or private members’ club within a work space. The restaurant itself is an open airy space with a metropolitan European urban feel. It features a pasta machine, a wood burning grill and a stone oven for grills and pizza.It’s rude not to start with an aperitivo. Mine was a Cynar spritz (£6) made with the classic artichoke based amari with its trademark bittersweet flavour. Fiona’s Sgroppino with Lemon sorbet, prosecco and vodka (£10) was more frivolous, like a fizzy limoncello. Good antipasti are one of the greatest pleasures in life. Salt cod crudo came with sultry segments of blood orange and my favourite Cappezana olive oil (£8). The dish was beautifully gentle with the richness of the oil caressing the tongue and coalescing the citrus and maritime flavours into a serenely synchronised flotilla of pleasure. I was disappointed that carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish deep-fried artichokes- a Roman staple) wasn’t on the menu; but fried sage and honey vinegar (£3) were slivers of herby crispness given a sweet kiss by the vinegar. Puntarelle, crunchy slivers of greenery, were given a piquant edge by anchovies and vinegar (£5).After antipasti it’s time for primi and that means pasta. Maltagliati (£6.50) are made from offcuts (maltagliati means poorly cut) from other pasta shapes. These were silky but with a real bite, and slathered with wild garlic – I could have eaten a bucket load. By now we had moved onto a bottle of Nebbiolo, Langhe, G.D Vajra, Piedmont, 2015 (£52). It had a lovely balance of tannins and cherry flavours. Bream came with onions, pine nuts, raisins and vinegar (£17.50) – the fish was rich and sweet with a hint of sourness from the vinegar and in a clever touch strips of radicchio to add a hint of bitterness.Fiona’s Saltimbocca; veal, prosciutto, spinach, sage and Marsala (£14) came in a rich meaty jus with the veal being tender and full of flavour. Fried potato gnocchi, Parmesan and garlic (£4) could have spent a couple more minutes in the pan as they were slightly doughy. I want them crisp! Swiss chard (£4) felt healthy and fennel, castelfranco (this year’s trendy Italian bitter leaf – stock up…), pomegranate and lemon salad was heavy on the castelfranco but not in a bad way.