Wednesday, 4 April 2018

VIA EMILIA - THE BEST PASTA IN LONDON


I am huge fan of Italian food in general and particularly enjoy a good plate of homemade pasta. It isn’t the easiest dish to find done well in London which is why Padella, in the heart of Borough Market, has been able to command hour long queues since it’s opening. And I can’t deny that I really enjoyed Padella when I managed to get a table there on a Sunday afternoon (probably one of the only times you can get a table without queuing and with a full time job) but was I wowed? Not quite. The pasta was flawless but there was a slight element of overhype which of course was only reiterated by the fact that we had to plan a very randomly timed meal to even get our foot through the door (I cannot stand waiting for a table which made queuing for hours not an option here). Anyhow it led to me being more determined than ever to find some less busy alternatives for fantastic pasta in London and made me more than intrigued when I stumbled across Via Emilia, just down the road from me off Hoxton Square.

Via Emilia quietly opened at the end of last year, eluding the social media hype that very quickly surrounded Padella, and I was only made aware of it’s existence when I stumbled across a pretty good review about it onTime Out while trying to find a new dinner venue near my flat. Browsing the menu it quickly became evident that this sounded like exactly my kind of place, serving a small range of pasta dishes, all made in house, and other delicacies from the Emilia Romagna region in Italy, also home to Parmesan, Parma ham, mortadella and balsamico (basically a lot of rather amazing things) as well as a fine selection of rather unusual red sparkly wine. Even better the prices appeared more than reasonable and there was an option to book which is why me and my dining companion for the eve very quickly jumped at the chance to try this place even if we weren’t sure how it was going to measure up to Padella.

We shouldn’t have worried. Via Emilia was utterly amazing, a hidden gem that in my eyes surpassed Padella not only in the dishes served but also in terms of service and value for money. In a way I even kind of regret that I am sharing this discovery with you, with only a handful of other diners there on the Sunday we dined receiving such attentive service that can only slightly worsen as more people find out just how good Via Emilia is and come here rather than brace the queue at Padella.

Once seated in the slightly rustic looking, intimidate dining room (they only do 40 covers), which I am hoping you will proceed to do ASAP after reading this, you have to order a portion of their gnocco fritto, soft gently fried bread that tastes like a beautiful cloud of carbi goodness and is best enjoyed with some of their cheese or meat offerings. We smothered ours with some young and creamy Sqacquerone di Romagna and had to show some real restraint to not order another round. As side note here I am of course not a meat eater but even I could even appreciate that the quality of cold cuts would have been amazing here and my meat eating companion was already mentally planning returning with his boyfriend to sample one of their meat platters, of course accompanied by more gnocco frittos.

Before getting to the main event at Via Emilia, the pasta of course, it is also important to highlight the fine wine selection with the aforementioned sparkly red here. We were advised wonderfully by our waiter on which wines to try and in the end sampled our way through two sparkly reds for a fiver or less for a generous glass and settled on the Lambrusco “Terre Verdiane” Ceci from Parma as being our favourite. I usually HATE red wine but boy did this combination of deep berry notes and bubbles work and I have found myself googling where to find affordable sparkly red wine ever since. Make sure you give this a try even if you are not a red wine fan like me and be a little adventurous on this occasion, you won’t regret it.

Already on our second glass and full of excitement of what was to come we perused the main menu, consisting of 8 pasta dishes from the region, and were advised by our waiter to start with two plates between us and order another after if needed to keep the pasta as fresh and warm as possible. We were more than happy to go with this and ordered the taglionlini (super thin spaghetti) with a delicate sauce made from parmesan cheese and pepper and their reginetti aj fonz (a kind of ridged parpadelle) in a sauce of Italian mushrooms and cream. Though they may sound pretty simple on paper the dishes that appeared in front of us were simply outstanding and of a quality on par with some of the best pasta of my life in Rome. The sauces were seasoned to perfection and the pasta as fresh as you can get it and although we didn’t order exactly the same as I had at Padella, in my eyes this surpassed Padella. Not quite satisfied yet after our first two dishes we went for the most unusual sounding option on the menu, pisarei e faso’ – small wheat gnocci with a rich tomato and berlotti bean sauce, and were once again left wowed by the wholesome and warming flavours, no small feast with my dining companion who usually is not a big fan of beans in any shape or form.

While wolfing down our pasta gluttonously we were already talking about which dishes we were going to order on a return visit, there being a couple of more veggie and some meat options that we could not fit in on this occasion, and simply couldn’t quite believe that we had more or less stumbled across this place while the masses of London foodies hadn’t yet. For around £30 ahead we left full of pasta, delicious wine and that true dolce vita feeling I hadn’t had since my last trip to Italy. The cat is out of the bag – Padella has a serious competitor now and you better go there before the queues start forming outside Via Emilia.
  

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8 comments:

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