I had the good fortune to attend the launch party of the new Panino Giusto restaurant in The Royal Exchange Building. I knew to expect Italian food, but it wasn’t until I arrived that my ignorance surpassed and I was told that ‘panino’ is the singular term for ‘panini,’ which means all this time we’ve been saying it wrong…and actually asking for multiple panino. As I’ve said previously, when I reviewed the delectable Il Bambino; the British don’t understand panini, there is an instant stigma attached and you can thank the Caffe Neros and Costas for that. Rock solid bread that scrapes the roof of your mouth with a very resistable, processed slice of ham, some rubber posing as cheese and perhaps an off cut of an under ripe tomato, so that the food standards agency can classify it as a recognised savoury food.
I am for the revolution of changing this stigma as Panino Giusto has the most refreshing, beautifully formed and delicately prepared food I’ve had in England for a long, long time. We started off with a crisp prosecco, not too sweet and the perfect aperitif. The panini I had were the ‘Garibaldino,’ (Bresaola, Mozzarella, seasonal tomato, rocket, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper) the accompaniments of oil and rocket and the incredibly sweet to perfection tomatoes were spot on. The meat sliced so utterly thin, it quite literally melts in your mouth and the bread, (oh the bread!) a slight crunch and effortless in it’s lightness, it had me craving the next dish. The following delight arrived, this time the ‘Tartufo’ (Parma Ham, Brie, seasonal tomato, rocket, Alba truffle oil). The Parma ham was stronger and saltier than the previous, in no way chewy, which is refreshing for Parma. The kicker with this one; the truffle oil. I mean real truffle oil. That garlicky influence overwhelmed my taste buds and when I thought it couldn’t get much better, the wine served with it (and I am not a wine drinker, but…when in Rome (or Naples for today)) was a sweet, thick, luxurious nectar; Infernot, Fattoria Cabanon, Lombardy, 2007/9.
Next came Mortadella with pistachio nuts, produced by the Veroni Brothers, which was was light and a nice contrast to the other hams as the nuttiness really blended well with the meat. Less salty than the others, but just as good. At this point I was bowled over by the bursts of new flavours, I had been dulled by the ‘same same’ nature of The British High Street restaurants. Then came the winner of the night. The chef, Alessandro Borghese announced it was his favourite. From Naples, with his own Sky 1 TV show and about to be a judge on the upcoming Junior Masterchef, ever the charming and lyrically sounding, I trusted his word. He was not wrong. Ridiculously thin slivers of Fassona roast beef from Piedmont lightly cooked around the edges and pink in the middle with an ambrosial lemon oil and cracked black pepper, roasted with rosemary and sage. The careful cooking process is evident and without a doubt, I have never tasted anything like it. I took a slice, then another, then another, as a joke Alessandro placed a whole plate of slices upon the table and it was polished of by me and my two fellow diners almost instantly. I’ve never had better.
Slapping myself on the wrists for toying with the greedy notion that there might possibly be a sweet treat to follow, I was actually right! My mouth began to salivate when I heard music to my ears…’Tiramisu’…my ever faithful friend. It’s hard to go wrong with this and with the aforementioned savoury delights, this couldn’t have possibly been a disappointment. I already have a firm favourite when it comes to Tiramisu, at my darling place in NY, and when I tasted this one it was so different, it was hard to compare – but one thing’s for sure, they are definitely on a par. This was so light, the cream was like air. The incredibly professional and charming waitress said there was a trick and that was that the eggs and the mascarpone must be whisked together for no less than 7 minutes. Along with the mystical, air like quality, the taste was not too bold, it was subtle and easy to have more. It didn’t make you bloat or feel guilty, it was too elegant for that. It didn’t need to be apologetic and you didn’t feel sorry.
The last surprise of the night was a very rich espresso twinned with a little gift box, Il Giustino. Inside was a miniature chocolate coated ice cream in a cone. You are supposed to dip and swirl the ice cream inside the espresso where it will ever so slightly melt the chocolate, making this whole experience complete.
The restaurant itself is sleek and modern and with no traffic nearby, its peaceful and wonderful. They have a takeaway menu and I suggest you get some panini (yes, multiple) as this is not to be missed!
1-3 Royal Exchange Building, Bank, London, EC3V 3LR