Officina 00 Old Street, London review: take a masterclass in pasta eating
An Italian carb-fest that’s satisfying, authentic and exciting
This is not Italy. This is not gnocchi in Naples, nor aperitifs along the Adriatic, nor bellinis in Bergamo, nor any other pre-lockdown sun-drenched memory, or post-lockdown wistful fantasy.
This is Officina 00 on Old Street, by the side of a traffic-choked street in London, in the last cold, dying days of lockdown. That said, despite the unseasonal spring chill, this is a delightfully cheerful, confident Italian restaurant with enough pinazz to banish reality for a little while, at least for a couple of hours until it is simply too cold to do anything other than wander off into the night – well, back home.
Officina 00’s makeshift “terrace” by the side of the road was clearly hastily constructed to take advantage of the restrictions on eating outdoors being lifted earlier this year. It’s not a thing of beauty, although sympathetic staff bring big, burly blankets, and the alcohol is flowing. The interior is much more spacious and chic, and I spy an open kitchen and a pasta station, with a seemingly continuous masterclass in pasta-making underway.
We start with a couple of rather fiery Italian margaritas, which come in gloriously impossible thin-stemmed glasses, accompanied by three superb aubergine, nduja, ricotta salata and honey croquettes, which are light and hot and crispy. Next up is the house pork sausage, with peppers gratin; and spicy braised octopus, and potatoes and crostini in a tomato sauce. It’s perhaps a little light on the octopus and heavy on the sauce, but it still works, especially with the cooler temperatures.
But the main event is obviously the pasta, which doesn’t disappoint. Officina 00’s fresh pasta is made in the onsite pasta workshop every day, with eight dishes on offer, which rotate with the seasons. We opt for the hearty meaty fare, three smallish plates of occhi with beef brisket genovese, sour parsley pesto, and aged Provolone; agnolotti with peas, crispy bacon, mint, and the pièce de résistance – pappardelle with pork ragu meatballs and burrata. All three are exceptional – the occhi is a type of round ravioli, stuffed with tender meat and swimming in rich, meaty juices. The agnolotti feels like a beckoning of spring, fresh and crispy, and the pappardelle is among the best I’ve ever had.
Polish the carb-fest off with profiteroles – lemon and chocolate – for pudding, and wash down any remaining morsels with the excellent wines on tap. It’s a recipe for a thoroughly satisfying, authentic and exciting dinner. The location just lets it down every so slightly, but there is only lockdown to blame for that. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will definitely be eating indoors.
Officina 00, 156 Old St, London EC1V 9BW; officina00.co.uk