Paesan – if this is peasant food, what do royalty eat?

Paesan

2 Exmouth Market

London

EC1R 4PX

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London foodies already know Exmouth Market well – it is where quality establishments such as Caravan and Moro call home after all. It was only a matter of time then before this cuisine hub located between Angel and Farringdon would welcome a new kid on the block. Well Exmouth Market, please give a warm welcome to the newest addition to your family, Paesan.

Opened in July 2013, Paesan specialises in cucina povera, which translates to “peasant kitchen”. This focuses on utilising every part of an animal and making do with the ingredients you have. If this just sounds like your idea of a sad Saturday night (look, we’ve all been there), then I would implore you to keep an opened mind as what you will find will not only exceed all your expectations but might also teach you a thing or two.

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My visit to Paesan occurred during their soft opening – the lure of good food at a discount was too hard to resist – though my expectations going into the meal were adjusted to account for this. Having said this, I found my experience to be extremely pleasant and was surprised that the kitchen and front of house were both already running like a well oiled machine. The staff were personable, attentive and efficient and our food was well presented, arriving promptly. These are things which people take for granted and are only noticed when it goes wrong but I find makes up the majority of the experience so credit should be given when it is due.

Before we even placed our orders, we were presented with a plate of focaccia and olive oil which proved to be a lovely accompaniment (well, for my evening’s company anyway as I barely had any…) whilst we discussed the menu. I found the focaccia was fresh and the olive oil, fragrant. Both certainly raised my expectations of what was to come.

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For starters, we ordered a trio of antipasti (cacciatore salami, gorgonzola dolce and artichokes – complimented with olive bread) and a plate of the courgette and lemon arancini. The cacciatore salami, though sliced extremely thin, still retained a lot of flavour. The gorgonzola dolce, served with walnuts, was extremely creamy and proved to be quite strong with an interesting aftertaste I can only describe as like red wine. The artichoke was as expected – fresh (this will be a recurring theme today), not too oily or vinegary.

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The arancini was interesting. The coating was a lot more solid than others I’ve had and I am not sure whether this was deliberate or was just fried a bit too long. In any case, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the overall dish. The rice filling was cooked to perfection and I could’ve easily gone back for seconds, or thirds, or fourths…

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For the mains, we opted for a selection of a calzoncino pizza fritta, rabbit ragu pappardelle pasta and, my personal kryptonite, a calamari and red mullet fritto misto pesce.

The calzoncino was incredible and proved to be the highlight of the night. There is little I love more than the taste of fresh dough and the dish did not disappoint on this front. Plainly, it was worked to perfection – soft to touch and a beautiful starchy taste. The fact that there was an olive oil base was the cherry on top for me. The tomato and basil topping was wonderfully seasoned and the provola, salami and capers filling was generous but not excessive. In case I was being too subtle, this was a great dish.

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The papperadalle was also a formidable dish. The pasta was hand cut and from the onset, you can tell care had gone into its preparation. The ragu was flavoured just right and, though it had a distinctly gamey taste due to the rabbit, it was not overpowering so you could still clearly taste the pasta – a top dish though it did need to be eaten rather quickly as it retained heat like Justin Bieber retains common sense (not well).

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As I noted previously, fritto misto is a personal favourite of mine so given the quality that preceded this dish, I was quite excited to get stuck in. On first inspection, the dish looked amazing: nice light batter which had a great crunch and the calamari and red mullet both looked well cooked. The dish overall though was over salted, at times to the point of bitterness, which was a shame as it meant a lot of the natural flavour of the seafood was lost.

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Rounding out the meal (and my waistline), we opted for the tiramisu semifreddo. Once again, the dish was presented well though, even for tiramisu, the taste of coffee was very strong but this is from a personal point of view. My preference would’ve been for a creamier taste which is there if you avoid the sponge cake bits (technical name I swear). I found the overall dish was also served too solid and may have benefited from letting it rest for a while before serving. That or I just need to work on my spooning technique next time I’m at the gym (and I don’t mean the kind I do already in the changing room).

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Overall, I was very pleased with my meal at Paesan and found the food, staff and atmosphere generally very enjoyable. This is made even more impressive given that the restaurant had not yet fully launched at the time of my visit yet was running as if it had been in operation for years. This is a great addition to the Exmouth Market scene and I would recommend any carb lover out there to pay these guys a visit before everyone else finds out about them.

KS

Paesan London on Urbanspoon Square Meal

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