WLC’s resident foodie, Lucy Shaw, heads to pasta palace 10 Heddon Street in Mayfair for glossy brown crab tonnarelli, glorious pig head rigatoni and a pretty Provence rosé.
The concept: If there’s one foodstuff Londoners seem incapable of tiring of it’s pasta. Our love of carbs shaped into pretty parcels knows no bounds. Working a stone’s throw from Padella in Borough Market, I witness this wheat flour worship on a daily basis. Rain or shine hordes of hungry tourists queue eagerly outside the tiny venue, keen to get their chops around a steaming plate of pici cacio e pepe.
Switched on to the capital’s deepening love affair with pasta, this summer Chris Leach of Pitt Cue, Petersham Nurseries and Kitty Fischer’s fame teamed up with David Carter of meat Mecca, Smokestak, to launch a temporary residency at 10 Heddon Street, taking over what used to be James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy’sfood trolley focused Magpie, which took flight in March after a difficult 18 months of trading.
Focusing on hand-made pasta and in-house charcuterie, this is Italian food with a British accent and a focus on zero waste – pig skin is used in the ragus, while bones from the beasts are used in broths in the kind of snout to trotter dining that would make Fergus Henderson proud.
The décor: In keeping with Carter and Leach’s laid-back ethos, the décor is equally relaxed, with its navy blue brickwork, exposed wooden panels, comfy velveteen seats, white walls and bursts of foliage.
Light floods in from a conservatory-style arched roof and the small wooden tables are tightly spaced, meaning you might catch snatches of other people’s conversations, though I was struggling to keep up with my own over the music blaring from the speakers – an eclectic soundtrack taking in everything from Prince’s Purple Rain to Will Smith’s Men in Black.
The food: The menu at 10 Heddon Street is a paean to the humble pig, so pork lovers are in for a treat. In house butchery sees speck crafted from the shoulders and pancetta made from the belly of the beast.
We began with a plate of wafer-thin fronds of peppery house-made mortadella (£5.20) with a confident kick of garlic, followed by a salty slab of fried ciccoli (£5.90) a rich dish assuaged by a cooling pool of apple ketchup, which proved just how wonderful that simple union can be.
Signature dishes: Though not involving pig, the pink fir potatoes with smoked cod’s roe (£7.70) were one of the culinary highlights of the night.
A generous portion for its price tag, the plate was heaving with giant golden hunks of pink fir potatoes, as crunchy on the outside as they were fluffy on the inside. The smoked cod’s roe elevated the dish from tasty to sublime – feather-light, silk smooth and impossibly creamy, the sophisticated twist on taramasalata paired perfectly with the piping hot tatties.
But what of the pasta? Finding it impossible to choose between them, we ended up ordering four bowls between two, and make short work of all of them. The glossy brown crab tonnarelli cacio e pepe (£8.70) was a wonderful evocation of the intense briny flavours of the sea, emboldened by a pleasing whack of peppery heat, while chubby tubes of rigatoni (£8.50) filled with pig head Bolognese and blanketed in Parmesan was a celebration of savoury flavours that showcased the pork in all its salty glory.
The menu changes regularly, but of the two desserts on offer, the almond and cherry ripple ice cream (£3.50) was a masterclass in the clever coupling of complementary flavours, the silky globes proving what a pretty pair cherry and almond make.
The drinks: In keeping with its Italian theme, 10 Heddon Street goes big on bitters, offering an extensive selection of amaros, from Campari to Cynar, in a spritz, with soda, or straight up for the unadulterated bitters hit.
Keen to explore the wine list, we began with a raspberry-hued flute of Quarticello’s Ferrando Lambrusco (£6.50) from Emilia-Romgana, which charmed with notes of strawberry and herbs, and proved a refreshing partner for the mortadella.
While not Italian, my favourite wine of the evening was a carafe of melon-scented, salmon pink Provence rosé from Domaine de Triennes (£25) with a Cinsault base, its summer fruit flavours cutting through the richness of the pasta dishes. A 2016 Cabernet/Sangiovese blend from Tuscan producer Cosimo Maria Masini (£6.50) was too high in alcohol for my liking.
Who to know: Seek out a guy called John and ask him to tell you the stories behind his many intriguing tattoos, including an apple on his arm inspired by an Albrecht Dürer woodcut. He’ll also guide you through the dishes with ease.
What could be done better: I’m a big fan of salt, and have a high tolerance for it, but some of the dishes seemed like the chef had gotten a little too trigger happy with the shaker. The music could be a little quieter too, so it enhances rather than dominates the atmosphere.
Last word: There is a lot of love about 10 Heddon Street – the pasta dishes are cooked perfectly al dente and pay homage to the divine union of fat and salt. The venue has a palpable buzz and the staff are laid-back, chatty and clued up.
You’ll have to be quick if you want to dine there, as the Heddon Street residency is due to end next month, but the boys will be back with a permanent site in Soho and a new name soon, so watch this space…
10 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BX