Pasta Loco, 37A Cotham Hill, Redland, Bristol BS6 6JY
Pasta Loco: No wonder this place is thriving, it must rely on the British persuasion to never complain
Pasta Loco. The J Dilla of ravioli, the Madlib of pappardelle; if hip hop did pasta. Like the privately educated roadman that carries that little handbag around containing a Dayrider and a 0.8 of his older brother’s weed, Pasta Loco™ is an acutely self-aware concept that cringingly revels in its craft, under the misapprehension that punters know barely anything about authenticity or in fact, cooking. On the menu and walls is a written reminder that the staff await your imminent display of ignorance with relish. Luckily for me, I played it safe with the pappardelle salsiccia carbonara because, obviously, me dumb-dumb. This dish, in particular, had been making waves all over town and let’s be honest-probably the world. All I know is that I’m late to the party and bleeding street credits.
Obfuscated by blanketing drifts of pecorino, is a cudgel of bronzed pork belly that, whilst well rendered, is underseasoned (that is to say, not at all). It slumps on top of beautifully al dente pappardelle- glossy and glowing with emulsified egg and cheese, blotted with collections of pork sausage. And it also has mushrooms. Not content with this, a poached egg wrapped in pancetta crowns this mound – a shrine to excess and the kind of food that mamma never used to make. It’s just so crazy, isn’t it? Fuck the rules- these renegades even burst the egg whilst poaching and then sealed it up by cauterising the wound. As Dilla once said ‘one won’t do when two is not enough for me, no’ so along with that mistake, why not wrap it in anemic pancetta? Because if you’re going to commit a double homicide, why not drown the cat, too?
With the clear Gangsterisation of the pasta biz, there is also the ever-present feeling of being hustled. It’s seventeen quid for this dish that is so far removed from its muse, they may as well have said ‘fuck it let’s put cream in it, yo!’. I’m all for reinvention or homage but this is just another dish entirely. It’s just so Loco™ you guys. No wonder this place is thriving, it must rely on the British persuasion to never complain. Suddenly, I’m reminded of this seminal piece by Armando Iannucci.
Jaco Pastorious once said “it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up” and, up until he was eventually beaten to death in an alley by a bouncer for being a gobshite, he had a point. Pasta Loco™ projects such confidence but undermines itself by trying dazzle in vain, passively demanding your thanks for this humble brag of a Godsend.
But what would you think of me if I were to say to you, Sam Wilson has been showing people a good time for a long time, his dazzling social prowess matched only by his entrepreneurial spirit. Sam Wilson has spent much of his career in Sydney, building an impressive reputation as one of hospitality’s most prized assets. Having managed some of Sydney’s premiere venues, Sam Wilson has gained an extensive knowledge on food, wine, cocktails and coffee. However, the family force remained too strong a pull, and nothing has proved more enriching than being home in the UK and embarking upon this exciting new venture with his best friend.
Exactly. You’d think not only is that maybe a total lie, but it’s also proven to be absolutely impossible to read that aloud without wretching, sobbing ‘mama mia!’ and getting sentimental with Bone Thugz-N-Harmony’s entire back catalogue. It’s strangely endearing though, like that friend who is so enthusiastic about their passions but within that enthusiasm, you utterly detest their joy. Unfortunately, this textbook example of 3am coke-chat was actually written on behalf of, or heaven forefend actually by, one of the co-owners.
The burrata with Sicilian caponata de melanzane & pasta fritti is perhaps the stand-out dish. Pearly and damp, the burrata haemorrhages the goods and the caponata is hues of blood and ruby with a deeply fruity and lively tang. It’s not groundbreaking, but my desire for burrata is greater than my qualms and this dish really does do it justice.
I look to the next dish ‘Raviolo doppio of braised duck with Italian peas & crispy coppa in brodo’ and immediately hear the moronic interrogative slicing into my thoughts. "Raviolo, like, doppio? And BTW ‘brodo’ means ‘broth’, omg you’re welcome!” accompanied by an audible plastic grin. Severely imbalanced, lukewarm and astringent to a wince – I see a lot of myself in this dish.
But there’s a raspberry in there, so that’s something.
I had a friend that used to demand my attention at random, to show you something he thought funny or clever. Assuming that he’s the smartest person in the room, he would rewatch these videos with me, staring at me for changes in my facial expression that would allow him to bestow his unique insight to ease my obvious mental burden by explaining that which I must obviously not understand. I look confused because I’m starting to doubt all I’ve come to know about this person when in reality, it just wasn’t that funny or clever. That’s what’s happening here, now. I feel the Loco eye all over me, supercilious and pouting.
It’s been a bad month for mackerel for me personally and I’ve tried to plot a graph of why this might be. Immolated and splayed over raw courgette chlorophyllic and sweet, is what remains of a fillet that was once a cornish mackerel. Through my graph, I’ve deduced that pans are either heating up more quickly or, heat is getting hotter and it’s an unaddressed emergency. The flavours work of course, but they would, which is I guess Loco in itself.
It’s always a bit distressing when your eagerness for dessert is catalysed by an itch to just go home. The panna cotta is meltingly supple and light on the grappa for which in hindsight, I’m glad. It delivers left and right hooks of bitter and sweet with the odd salty jab to the solar plexus. The delice is a little grainy and snaked with salted caramel sauce, altogether unremarkable in flavour. The chocolate crumb is only there to tick the texture box and it shows. The rocher is excellent and technical skills cannot be ignored in this kitchen and it’s not all bad, but is a prime example of ego over substance with an arrogance so deep-seated that handing over my money feels like I’m guilty of enabling behavior. Never did I envisage seeing a restaurant so desperately wanting to be associated with the upper echelons of dining, that it would start chugging out branded merch- flat peaks included.
But here we are.
Tonight they’ll cash up and consider it a victory but I vote with my wallet and this time, they’ve been hoist by their own petard because unfortunately, Dilla made Donuts. Not pasta.