The background: Palatino, which launched at the end of January this year, is the fifth restaurant from lauded chef Stevie Parle. He is also behind Dock Kitchen, Rotorino, Craft London and Sardine – all of which combine his passion for good design, top-notch, refined cooking and all-day dining. Parle is the former Guardian Young Chef of the Year and trained the River Café, Moro and Petersham Nurseries. Such refined eateries have clearly influenced Parle, as have his years travelling the world and, in the case of Palatino, his time spent in Rome. The Italian capital is reflected in the menu, with dishes inspired by the city’s Jewish quarter as well as the recipes and ingredients of ancient Rome, all merged into one exciting and elegant restaurant.
The space: Palatino is located between Farringdon and Old Street, just a few streets away from St John Street and Clerkenwell Road. The 70-cover restaurant is bright and airy and feels remarkably spacious with enormous Crittall-style windows and high ceilings. There are several luxurious bright yellow leather booths alongside light wood tables, chairs and floors and an open, bustling kitchen. It shares an entrance and some space with Fora, a collaborative flexible working company, which only adds to the feeling of the restaurant being alive and part of the local community. Those working at Fora will no doubt consider themselves lucky to have this restaurant in their building.
The bar: Palatino employs Coravin, the wine system that can extract a glass of wine from a closed bottle, which means every vintage on the list is available by the glass. Parle and the restaurant’s sommelier have worked to create a list of wines ranging from the everyday and delicious to much rarer bottles – many of which are collected at auction or are from very limited vintages. To start, the cocktail list is classy and inspired, including the Sgroppino, made from lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco and the ancient Rome-inspired Dandelion Crusta, made from sherry and lemon, or the honeyed wine, Trebbiano served warm with honey and spices.
What to eat: To dine at Palatino and treat it like a traditional Italian restaurant would be a mistake. Yes, there are primi, secondi and dolci but the menu represents all corners of Rome and it’s a chance to try something quite different. Start with the ancient dish of fried sage with apple and honey vinegar, which is tangy, crisp and moreish, as well as perhaps the salt cod crudo and supli, a Roman version of a croquette or arancini, stuffed with mushroom, cheese or meat. From the primi menu, the gnocchi with brown butter and sage is something everyone should try. Then there’s the the ravioli with spinach and squash – a beautiful combination that is almost as much of a treat for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.
The secondi are exquisitely prepared on the restaurant’s grill and include a rather special pork chop, served with anchovies, olives and cream; a beautiful onglet steak, and a changing selection of fresh fish, including bream cooked in blend of ancient-Roman, Sicilian and Jewish styles with onions, pine nuts, raisins and vinegar, and the Jewish-Roman chicken, pancetta and pistachio meatballs with creamy polenta. If you have room for dessert, the almond lemon and ricotta cake is irresistible, as is the chocolate and sour cherry tartuffi and the simple but refreshing Campari with orange ice.
The bill: For a three-course meal with wine, dinner for two people averages at around £90.
In summary: Palatino is a modern restaurant that uses ancient flavours to dynamic effect. It’s unique and is as welcoming to those who want a glass of wine and plate of pasta as it is to someone looking for a four-course meal with cocktails and a bottle of rare vintage wine.