Gin O’ndina Italian Dinner at Palatino

Campari’s Gin O’ndina have partnered with Italian restaurant Palatino to take diners, and gin lovers, on a tasty tour of Italy.

Despite being exactly where Google Maps says it is, Palatino is a little bit hidden. It’s part of the Fora co-working space on Central Street, but there is a logo in a window and a menu outside, and if you venture into the surprisingly industrial interior, you’ll find it immediately to your left.  It’s clearly a popular meeting venue, with about half of the diners in suits sitting in groups, a stark contrast to the more casual crowd that have sought it out for its foodie reputation.

We were greeted with a classic G&T and informed we were going on a culinary journey of Italy, starting in the North and moving down with each course to the South.

Gin O’ndina really makes the most of its herbs and botanicals, avoiding the usual emphasis on citrus, and so its recommended garnish is basil.  Served over ice, with Fever Tree tonic (this isn’t the sort of gin you want to waste on Schweppes), and a fresh basil leaf on top, it was the perfect refreshment on a hot day.  My friend found it very basily towards the bottom, whereas I only got the odd note; we both agreed it set the tone for the meal to follow.

To accompany our gin and tonic was a selection of antipasti, various meats, small bites of tomato focaccia, and a heavenly sea bream ceviche, simultaneously light, fresh and citrusy.

Then, we moved on to the Italian Riviera, with a choice of pesto pasta or a tomato based pasta with mussels.  I opted for the Caserecce pesto Genovese and it was very hearty and flavourful – if you’re a fan of pesto or cheese, choose this one.  I avoided the mussels because the sauce contained chilli, but it wasn’t hot at all, and just gave the tomato a bit of a lift. The cocktail pairing for this course was the divine O’ndina Sgroppino. On balance, this was my favourite cocktail.  It was like a very sophisticated melted lemon ice lolly, with herbal notes in the form of sage just adding that little extra kick, topped up with prosecco.

I would have been more than happy to drink those the rest of the night, but our next course was calling from the Amalfi coast.  I made my next choice based on the cocktail rather than the food – I’m not a Negroni fan, but I adore Aubergine Parmigiana, which was its partner.  I had a chance to sample the Negroni; I found it to be especially smoky, and one of the nicer ones I’ve tried in a while, but I still much preferred my choice.  The alternative cocktail was a gin take on a basil mojito, and worked really well the lightness of its partneringsea bream.  I’d have preferred something to go with the fillet, such as a small salad (there was not sign of the advertised salsa verde), but you couldn’t fault the fish itself.

We were now creaking at the seams a bit, but found room to finish the meal with the cannoli.  Stuffed with ricotta and rolled in pistachio in the real Sicilian way it was very rich, but paired perfectly with the final cocktail, a bespoke concoction of O’ndina gin, Averna Amero, fresh lemon and basil.  If you’ve ever had Amero before, you’d be astonished that it can be made so light and fruity, with a real rich lemony punch to the cocktail that helped wash down all the ricotta – this was the other favourite of the night.

We left, full, and very merry on gin, but also impressed at just how well the food had brought out the boasted 19 botanicals that go into Gin O’ndina. We were also impressed by the price – you can get a ticket for the four course meal with its four cocktails for £39, which we thought was extremely good value.  However, it’s only available on three dates – July 31st, August 14th and September 4th – so if you want to experience this culinary gin journey through Italy, make sure you get your tickets quickly!

Tickets available here:

Jennifer Melmore