PASSIONE: LOVE AT A PRICE
A very happy and very straightforward supper tonight with my recent ex, Magda.
We had not seen each other for a little while so I pondered on somewhere to meet where we could talk, where the food was decent and the lighting was low enough that I looked good. Who said “Dans Le Noir” bastards.
I am not sure why my mind came to rest on Passione on Charlotte St. I had only been there once or twice and the last time quite a long time ago, the claim to fame of the owner, Genaro Contaldo as the man who gave Jamie Oliver his first break should be enough for him to have earned his own special piece of Hell and friends had reported that recent meals had been a bit underwhelming.
Still, book it I did and after meeting Magda from work, we walked into town and arrived on time for our 7.30pm reservation.
The room does not seem to have changed since my last visit and too many tables are squeezed into too small a space. We were certainly squeezed into too small a space at the most Lilliputian of tables.
We were both staying off the booze. Me because I had been hitting grain and grape rather hard over the weekend, Magda because she did not want to drink alone. Strange creatures women.
The menus were presented and there was an audible gasp as we looked at the prices. A gasp that was repeated by each successive tables as they received the menu.
It would seem that passion does indeed come at a price. Starters average about £12. Pasta around £11.50 and main courses all well over £20.
Magda began with smoked swordfish on a salad of watermelon, chilli, pine nuts and rocket. Not to my taste. A slightly odd smoked/sweet combination although she liked it.
My crab salad was better. Served on wafer thin slices of courgette with a sauce made of the brown crab meat and olive oil. Very fresh seafood and a tang of the amalfi lemon zest used in the sauce.
We split a pasta dish, raviloli filled with slow cooked pork and served in a butter and sage sauce. Al dente is one thing. This was tough. Decent filling though and the sage and butter sauce was rich and delicious. But, £11.50?
A long wait followed. A long, long wait. In the end, I had to chase them up with the staff and still waited nearly 10 minutes after that. However, when they arrived, they were just about worth the delay. Hearty portions each. For Magda huge chunks of rabbit served with sauté potatoes cooked in rosemary and garlic. The rabbit had none of the taste of the wild rabbit served by Ransome’s Dock and was slightly dry, but we still polished it all off.
Likewise, my lamb. Filled with sun dried tomatoes, basil and black olives and on a sauce made from roasted aubergines with rosemary and anchovies. Despite asking how I would like my lamb it came well done not pink. Quite frankly, smothered in the sauce, it was hard to tell it was lamb let alone how it was cooked. The sauce was excellent, though and I also cleared my plate. Mind you, I was paying £23 for the privilege so I probably would have eaten it all if it bore a sign that said, “rat poison”
No pudding or coffee saw a bill that came to exactly £100 including service and £3 each for two tiny bottles of mineral water
I am no great expert on Italian food but this seemed like a decent example. But at £50 a pop, it really should have been. With even a cheap wine, one could come out of there spending close to £150 which is getting into serious territory which this food and cooking simply does not deserve
It is always a delight to see Magda, but perhaps next time, while as always doing things with much affection, we’ll do it with less Passione.