January eating out feels rather luxurious, but when on gardening leave, it’s inevitable! Passo was at the top of My List, overdue from last year, in fact, when their soft launch had totally bypassed me. Passo is from the same team behind the Rum Kitchen and the fantastic Foley’s (on which, see my review here) and so I knew it must be good. What’s more, this newly opened Old Street Italian eatery is bookable, probably given its spacious interiors – home to 140 covers. Even the tables are made for fitting plates in the plural sense.
Although located just off London’s Silicon Roundabout near Old Street, this place feels modern and chic in the LA sense, yet homely. It’s been designed by East London designer Alexander Waterworth, who also designed Clerkenwell’s Luca and Soho Farmhouse. Yes, you’ve got the subtle neutral tones of the polished concrete walls, a very sleek marble bar and a proud open kitchen centrepieced by a copper-finished pizza oven. But the oak feasting tables and its Italian vibes make this place feel hearty. The place is softly lit, finished with earthy tones and rustic touches, which give this place a real sense of comfort, home and hearth.
Passo had struck a chord with me due to the extraordinary range of plates on their menu: from the antipasta and small plates (yes, I’m thinking of you, fried artichokes with green sauce), to their freshly made pasta and a cheeky truffle pizza three ways. Incidentally, although we didn’t order one, our waitress was quick to recommend their pizza; the dough had been freshly kneaded that day and the Neapolitan chef was on site.
The head chef here is Massimiliano Iaquinoto, ex-Shoreditch House, and promises authentic Italian fare with an East London twist. Not only is the range of food is astonishing, but their vegetarian dishes aren’t just an afterthought. From the Vegetables on offer, I went for the Whole Barbecued Cauliflower (£11). When the plate arrived, it felt very fitting for a blue Monday: a knife was vertically stuck into it and the blackened skin was dripping in a cloak of red-hued (and blood-like) chilli aioli and jewel-like pistachios. It did look like a murder scene, albeit a regal one.
The dish wasn’t only striking in its look, but also its top-notch flavours. The creamy and generously slathered aioli was oozing with flavour and the cauliflower had been chargrilled to perfection; I loved the blackened skin which had a charcoally flavour. It was very well suited to my palette: aioli always puts a smile on my face (my guilty pleasure) and I’ve always rather liked burnt flavours.
My only suggestion is that the dish would probably work better as a small plate, to enjoy alongside one of their other dishes, whether the trofie pasta, or the grilled hispi cabbage with Parmigiano Reggiano barley risotto – which both sound delicious. Although I didn’t really tire of it, it was a lot of cauliflower for one person to eat and is probably more of a sharing plate, preferably with some greens. It also feels slightly absurd to spend £11 to eat just cauliflower, albeit an entire steak of it.
For afters, my companion took the Tenerina chocolate cake with cinnamon ice cream (£6) which she rated very highly. Warm and gooey, the cake was perfectly offset by the subtle cinnamon spicing of the gelato.
Passo has pulled out all the spots in creating an excellent restaurant with a trendy yet hearty vibe and pleasingly good food. I’m going to have to return to sample their pizzas.
Passo, 80 City Road, London, EC1Y 2BJ
Website: https://passorestaurant.com/Rating: ****