The Handbook
The Handbook

What? Named after one of the seven ancient hills of Rome, Palatino is the fifth restaurant from Stevie Parle, who also has Sardine, Craft London, Rotorino and Dock Kitchen under his belt.

New? Yes, brand spanking new, it only opened a couple of weeks ago.

Where? Palatino, 71 Central Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 8AB,

On the Menu: Inspired by his love of Rome (which he first visited aged 17 when he was the commis chef at The River Café) Stevie has created a menu which revolves around ancient Roman recipes, but given a Stevie Parle twist. Expect to find the likes of fried sage, apple and honey vinegar; gnocchi alla Romana with brown butter and sage; bream with onions, pine nuts, raisins and vinegar and to finish quince, almond and rosemary tart and sour cherry and fig leaf sorbet.

First Impressions: The first thing that struck me is the enveloping smell of wood-fire coming from the wood burning grill. It’s that warm, comforting smell, synonymous with winter evenings and large glasses of wine. Stevie Parle’s name proceeds him, so despite being new to the area and visiting mid-week when we arrived every table was full and most of the seats at the bar were occupied.

The Look: The restaurant is pared back; a mixture of different low lighting gives it an intimate feel whilst metal chair frames and exposed pipes give it an industrial edge. The sweeping, curved concrete bar lets you pull up canary yellow bar seat and order a drink whilst watching the chefs work in the open kitchen. Tables are divided up into banquettes, booths and communal tables with a few high tables and stools at the front for those looking for a quick aperitif. Head round to the loos which are beneath the restaurant and you find yourself in the FORA building – a flexible working space with members’ club style service. It feels slightly odd seeing people working but given that it’s set around the corner it’s not initially apparent.

What We Ate: Choose what you want to eat whilst nibbling on fried sage which you can dip in apple and honey vinegar, there’s a sweetness to the sage that is produced when frying that makes them undeniably moreish. Do as we did, getting a couple of antipasti dishes to start, a small pasta dish to share before ordering your own mains. We began with slices of speck, finnocchiona and coppa – smoked pork, salami and salt cod crudo with blood orange and cappezana olive oil. Keeping things simple we order the tonarelli cacio e pepe. A plate of cheesy, punchy black pepper and pasta, comfort food done perfectly. If I could, I’d make it a weekly staple.

Chunky chicken, pancetta and pistachio meatballs arrived on golden polenta – our waitressing telling us this was fast becoming one of their signature and most popular dishes. Rough cut, rustic and with a bite to them, they were offset by the smooth, cheesy polenta. It was another dish, that was simple but just right. Equally as good was the saltimbocca – veal topped with prosciutto and served with spinach, sage and marsala – if you into your big, meaty flavours then order this.

A tiramisu was a little too subtle in taste, lacking the coffee hit or the booziness and a ricotta cheesecake with blood orange was rather here nor there, but a chocolate mousse with pistachio and sticky, crunchy honeycomb brought it back to end with a winner.

What We Drank:  The wine is split into classic wines with traditional varieties; off beat wines with strong characters and rare occasion wines and vintages with low mark ups. Cocktails follow the same pattern – I need to go back for the Pancetta Old Fashioned with fat-washed whisky.

Go With: Take a date, grab a drink at the bar before moving round to your table – if you can get a seat in one of the booths or hideaway in one of the corners.

Final Word: They’re going to be launching a breakfast and lunch takeaway service soon – if you work in the area, get ready for lunch to become that bit more exciting. We already have our eye on the daily changing pizza Bianca, Thursdays are going to be oxtail and pecorino days…sign us up.

Like This? Try These: Sardine, Roma, Padella

Images: Joe Woodhouse