This time of year is crazy for us teacher folks, my blog always falls by the wayside and my Instagram takes a serious hit. Yes, yes, I know we’re gearing up for that epic summer beak where we get 6 weeks off (oh woe is me…such a tough life) but the run up to it is pretty hideous and I think only those of you who have friends or family who are teachers will ever really understand and appreciate what I mean.
Data deadlines, data analysis, report deadlines, school trips and transition days all piled on top of the daily lessons delivered to 30 hot, sweaty and exhausted children who are completely over emotional and anxious about the unknown which they are facing in a couple of months time is not the easiest thing.
So when I received a little email inviting me to an O’ndina pairing dinner at Palatino’s London I jumped at the chance. Back in November I attended an intimate dinner with O’ndina, during Italian Cuisine Week at Harry’s Dolce Vita London and it was insane. I obviously got a little over excited and RSVPd, yes, yes a gazillion times yes!
The premise of the evening, to present a series of all Italian dining experiences; designed to take us on a culinary journey through the regions of Italy…food and cocktails, sounds pretty fabulous in my book! The inspiration for this journey is drawn from Gin O’ndina’s 19 unique and distinctive botanicals, which were to be showcased in stunning bespoke cocktails and paired with four flavourful courses.
So on Wednesday evening, I frantically dashed from my after school meeting, performed a superman style change of clothes in the staff loo and headed off into London to be fed and watered in style.
Palatino’s can be found at 71 Central St in Clerkenwell, just a few minutes walk from Old Street or Angel stations and is the latest offering from famed British chef Stevie Parle. The restaurant primarily focuses on the food of Rome after Parle found the food called “alla Romana” the most delicious and being drawn to dishes like gnocchi alla Romana and artichokes alla Romana. The menu at Palatino’s is split into four sections in the traditional Italian way, antipasti, primi, secondi, (the mains which are mostly focused around the charcoal wood grill,) and dolci. The restaurant itself has an industrial, warehouse edge but with a comfy, contemporary feel and an open kitchen, allowing diners to see the chefs hard at work creating their culinary masterpieces.
The gorgeous Gin A Ding Ding and I met at Old Street station and took the short walk to the restaurant, where we were greeted by some very friendly staff and invited to explore the venue before taking a seat. The table centrepieces were cleverly created to include some of the 19 key botanicals which feature in Gin O’ndina, a beautifully herbaceous gin from Campari UK, inspired by the effortless glamour and carefree spirit of the Italian Riviera in the 1960s. At the head of the table was a gorgeous Gin O’ndina trolley, which I obviously now need in my life and it was also our first peek at the exclusive pairing menu…oh my days!
Gin in hand I studied the menu, which catered for both meat lovers and the vegausauruses among us with equal effort and attention…always a bonus in my eyes. As a vegetarian I often feel a little left out when perusing a menu and am envious of the variety offered to my meat loving friends, definitely not the case here though!
Whilst nibbling on some scrummy focaccia I ordered my meal and in next to no time the antipasti arrived. Before each course a lovely chap called Paolo, a Brand Ambassador for Campari, talked to us about the dish, how it fitted into our journey through Italy and why each particular cocktail had been selected and adapted to suit the food.
The Antipasti, taking influence from Northern Italy included amongst other offerings, a selection of cured meats, bream carpaccio and fried sage and honey vinegar which was absolutely incredible, I pretty much devoured an entire plate to myself and would highly recommend trying it. This antipasti course was paired with an O’ndina Gin and Tonic which was garnished with fresh basil and complimented the food flavours beautifully.
Next it was time for my course Primi course, for which I’d ordered caserecce pesto genovese. Taking our journey south to the Mediterranean Sea in Liguria and the Genoa region. This dish was served with a refreshing palate cleanser in the form of an O’ndina Sgroppino, a cocktail which combines Gin O’ndina, lemon & sage sorbet and prosecco. Traditionally this Italian cocktail is served with vodka rather than gin, but I personally welcomed the change.
The aubergine parmigiana which I ordered for my course Secondi was the real stand out for me. Taking our food pairing journey to the stunning Amalfi Coast, I was initially a little disappointed that my portion wasn’t larger…(bit of a piggy!) When I took my first bite, I completely understood, the flavours were huge and so intense. This is by far and away the best aubergine parmigiana I have ever tried and paired with a perfectly bitter Negroni I was left very full and speechless, which is no mean feat!
Sadly at this point I needed to leave as it was fast approaching pumpkin o’clock and I had to catch my train home. Panic set in as I feared I was going to miss out on our journey to Sicily and my dessert choice of cannoli, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling and pistachio nuts. Thankfully Paolo came to the rescue and organised a cannoli to go, which I enjoyed on the train home.
…how it actually looked as I was eating my cannoli on an apparently rather wobbly train ride home.
I have been raving about this evening to everyone for the past few days, causing some jealousy amongst my friends and colleagues. However, here’s the super exciting part…this pairing dinner is available to the general public on 31st July, 14th August and 4th September and only costs £39, an absolute steal in my eyes based on the number of beautiful drinks and amount of delicious food you get! Tickets can be purchased from designmynight.com.
A huge thank you to Palatino’s and Campari, I had an absolutely wonderful evening and I cannot recommend this pairing menu enough and am very, very tempted to come back again myself with the Hubby.