There’s nothing quite like comfort food when the world’s going to hell in a handcart. And when the carb cravings come calling, Zoe Perrett says it hasta be pasta…
It’s lasagne SZN at Tom’s Pasta and we are here for it – metaphorically, and now literally too. We’re also dripping wet, but not in anticipation of a hot steamy carb-based embrace; rather, owing to what should have been a pleasant 10-minute walk from Hackney Downs station turning into an impromptu power shower thanks to the torrential rain.
We make our way across the All Good Beer bar in which Tom’s pasta palace has resided since it started as a delivery-only pandemic project in 2020, leaving a wet trail like two snails rather than a pair of best mates in the market for some carb-on-carb action and a long overdue catchup.
The titular Tom welcomes us cheerily from his Lilliputian kitchen unit, directing us to an equally cheery waitress who seats us amongst our fellow, equally cheery diners. It must be all the pasta.
You know where there’s so much on a menu you can’t decide? Well there’s not much at all on this dish list, but I still can’t. So to the main man himself, who advises me across the pass to go for the 16-hour beef shin and ‘nduja – a spiced up spin on his classic beef-recipe – and I do as I’m told.
From a handful of non-lasagne starters’n’snacks, Best Mate has her heart set on the burrata. I plead the case that it’ll fill up valuable stomach space before the main event, but it’s only ‘cause I have my own agenda: I have my beady eye on a third main and need her onside as my wingwoman.
We argue the toss but the row was pointless because we order it all anyway; both knowing my Lasagne-Loving-Lover will relish a doggy bag.
I don’t get a look in when the ball of creamy-centred burrata hits the terrazzo tabletop – not at the cheese, nor the olive oil which slicks its plate, nor the sourdough slice on the side. Clearly it earns top marks from Best Mate, then.
There’s a long enough inter-course pause that she’s good and ready for the arrival of what we’ve witnessed at other tables to be proper slab-sagnes. With a morsel of food yet to pass my lips, I’m less ‘raring to go’ than I am ‘downright ravenous’, so the extra main course proves entirely unextraneous. Sorry LLL, you’re out of luck.
In we tuck: Best Mate to a pumpkin and sage specimen that’s also available vegan and whose dense-textured, richly-flavoured filling indicates that Tom’s sourced properly sexy squash, not just used a lasagne as a convenient vehicle for the guts of his Halloween Jack’o’lantern.
My beef shin’n’’nduja number features a very generous amount of long-stewed meat blanketing the pasta sheets; the inclusion of ‘nduja bringing gentle warmth and depth just as Tom promised would be the case – with a delightfully concentrated umami spiciness each time my fork forages out a little nugget of the soft Calabrian sausage.
I’m a big fan of our third choice: a boldly seasoned parmigiana. After a few bites, Best Mate declares it a shade too salty for her palate, which is fine with me because I was resenting each every incursion her fork made into the layers of gooey aubergine, milky mozzarella and tangy tomato sauce from the other side of the table anyway, and her conclusion means she will finally Back The Fuck Off.
As with pizza, you can tell a lot about a person by how they eat their lasagne. I’m not schooled in the art of interpretation, but I can clue you into the fact that Best Mate goes in from the side, edging bits of filling out like she’s playing Jenga; while I flip mine upside down and eat my way down a layer at a time, saving the bechamel and crispy bits til last. Make of that what you will.
But I’m here to see what I make of Tom’s Pasta, and as we set down our forks, split a very modest bill and ready our umbrellas for the return journey, my conclusion is this: it’s not flash, it’s not spendy, it’s not hyper-trendy; it’s just comforting and – to reach for a word which always allegedly makes writerly types recoil, but on occasion just hits the nail on the head like no other – nice.
And at this rainy, dark, cold time of year when times are anxious, uncertain, and let’s face it, often downright grim, a nice spot in which to eat nice lasagne cooked and served by nice people is sometimes just what you need; and a very nice prospect indeed.
P.S. Whether it’s weather, tiredness or sheer CBA preventing you from venturing from your own home, you’re in luck: Tom’s lasagne is available for delivery here.
MAKE IT HAPPEN