I have a problem with pasta. The issue is that I utterly adore it and for that reason have to limit my consumption to roughly once a week. I save up my pasta allowance for as long as possible then cave and indulge in a binge of, frankly, disgusting proportions. I can eat enough pasta in one sitting for approximately four people; probably more if I really put my mind to it. My favourite ‘recipe’ is something I call ‘sick spaghetti’. This is a concoction I have, ahem, ‘refined’ over the years until it is now unhealthy and intense enough to deliver ultimate pasta binge satisfaction. I will share the recipe at some point. Maybe.
So anyway I saw a picture of this tagliatelle alla bottarga at The Table Cafe in Bermondsey and instantly became obsessed with the idea of eating it. I mean, look. Just look. I could see that the pasta was very well made and cooked; yes I can tell how well pasta is cooked just by looking at it. In fact, I’ve eaten so much pasta in my life I can tell when it’s cooked by the change in the sound of the water. I’m serious. And bottarga – if you’ve never had it you’re missing a trick. It is the roe of either tuna or grey mullet, which is salted and dried, then sliced or shaved thinly to serve. It is intensely salty and rich in flavour, which obviously makes it perfect for working through pasta. This is a classic Sardinian dish, usually made with spaghetti, then plenty of bottarga, parsley, lemon juice and more than a slug of olive oil. The pasta was al dente, almost chewy; just the right side of too thick. My mouth waters as I think about it now. It was, basically, a perfect plate of pasta. Tagliatelle with porcini and parsley was also excellent. Behold the glossy magnificence…
A quail with crisp, salty skin was stripped clean, though only after we all stopped laughing at its frankly gynaecological appearance on the plate. Mature.
A bowl of fregola sarda (toasted Sardinian pasta shaped like giant cous cous) with crab and courgettes was unexpectedly good; we only ordered it because I needed to know whether or not something can be done with fregola that isn’t that soupy Sardinian clam dish. I’m sure it’s lovely and all but the idea of mini balls of pasta bobbing about in soup just weirds me out. I’m totally ripping off the crab recipe…
The chef at The Table, Cinzia Ghignoni is, unsurprisingly, Italian. She’s previously worked at Duck Soup, Angela Hartnett and Zucca. Nice. It’s a damn sight easier to get a table here than at any of those restaurants and yet my friend remarked while we were eating that the meal was ‘better than the meal I had last week at Zucca’. The menu has recently changed, and The Table are working with a homeless charity, St. Mungo’s, who provide vegetables and herbs from their allotment. In short, they’re doing lots of very good things. Get a table now before everyone else does.
When I compare this with my much over-hyped meal at Dabbous I am baffled. This cost* half the price for a lot more food which was infinitely more enjoyable. A fussy, hit and miss, technically complicated tasting menu, or a plate of perfect pasta. I know which I’d rather have…
*I didn’t pay for my meal at The Table Cafe so you’re just going to have to believe what I say oh and LOOK AT THE PICTURES.
The Table Cafe
83 Southwark Street