Saturday, 18 January 2014

Paesan (Exmouth Market) - cooking for the poor strikes a chord


Address: 2 Exmouth Market,
London EC1R 4PX
Phone: 020 7837 7139
Nearest Tube station:

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10pp (light nibbles)
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
We have a curious Saturday routine, which lands us up in Farringdon. A quick stop at Quality Chop Butchery where we would get our weekly meat staple and then stroll round the corner to Exmouth Market for an afternoon tea.

Exmouth Market on a Saturday afternoon is almost unrecognisable: no market stalls catering to weekday lunchtime crowds, the alfresco dining areas outside many restaurants lie empty (other than Caravan's of course). After going up and down Exmouth Market, which took little more than five minutes, we decided to hop into Paesan. "Open for coffee, tea and nibbles" said a sign outside - perfect.

"Are you here for lunch?" a staff asked. He was visibly relieved when we said no. "Step in this way then," he beckoned grandiosely. Paesan was totally empty except for a table which occupants were mopping up the remnants of lunch. We practically had the whole place to ourselves.


Light bites include the likes olives, garlic bread and other antipasti that didn't require the kitchen to fire up its stove. I went for prosciutto di parma (£5), something light with a hint of indulgence. The parma ham slices were almost creamy. The bruschetta was lightly toasted, nothing of the biscuity hard sort. Paesan purported to be serving "cucina povera" - or cooking for the poor, essentially peasant food, if you will. Presentation is clearly not its forte but with a healthy serving of salad greens, it is a steal at a fiver.

I saw this interesting metallic teapot contraption left uncleared on the next table. "That's our Moka coffee, that's how we Italians brew our coffee," the waiter explained. Oh, one of that please was my swift reply.


It reminds me of the traditional Vietnamese drip coffee though the similarity stops there. The Moka pot passed hot pressurised water through ground coffee, which extracts the flavour more thoroughly than drip brewing. I'm normally not one who takes his coffee with milk or sugar. That just muddles up the taste. The Moka coffee (£2) was right up there on the acidity scale; even coffee purists would find that hard to swallow. Mayhaps some condensed milk would do the trick.

Nevertheless, tea ended on a nice note with light music played in the background and the late noon sunrays filtering through the windows. Paesan is delightful to spend a quiet weekend afternoon in. Undisputedly so.

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