Thursday, 20 June 2019
PASTAIO – SERVING PERFECT PASTA IN CENTRAL LONDON
I try to avoid central London wherever possible, of course I work a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden so do have the occasional lunchtime wonder around the area, and yes, sometimes Oxford street is pretty unavoidable when you want to go shopping and like me you detest malls like Westfield, but it is not something I particularly enjoy, especially as it does at times feel like everything is geared towards gullible and annoying tourists. That particularly rings true when it comes to eating out. I know, I know, Soho is full of great restaurants BUT where do you go if you are done with a day of shopping, find yourself on Regent or Carnaby street and don’t fancy waiting hours for a table at one of the Soho hotspot?
There is of course a plethora of overpriced and uninspired chain restaurants in your vicinity (looking at you Wagamama) or, even worse, the rip off tourist hell hole that is an Angus steak house, I mean I can only pity the poor souls who I hope are mainly clueless tourists that end up there, paying a hell of a lot for crappy food, but no where really in that area serving good food in a nice atmosphere where you are actually able to have a decent meal for a decent price.
Well good thing then that team behind Pastaio decided central London needed some affordable and authentic pasta because I now have a fool proof dining option when in central, serving some of the best pasta I have come across in London!
First things first, Pastaio ain’t fine dining but also it doesn’t pretend to be and here it really doesn’t matter. Pastaio is about honest, well sourced and authentic food, great service and a pleasant dining environment - you may not spend hours pottering around here post-dinner but you will leave well fed, fully satisfied and ready to re-enter the central London madness with a belly full with the best kind of carb, pasta!
The modern slightly industrial looking dining room is bright and filled with communal benches and tables for diners to perch at and though there is a no reservation system, you are able to put down your name, have a drink at one of the many old school pubs or bars close by and come back when a table becomes available. We went on a Friday night and there was a steady stream of people coming and going, without the place ever feeling too rammed which is incredibly refreshing considering some of the awfully long and awkward (pushed to the side in a busy dining room) waiting times I have endured in my lifetime of dining out, and me and my dining companion Charlotte were therefore more than excited to explore the menu as we sat down at one of the few individual tables towards the back of the restaurant.
The menu is simple yet effective, divided into three sections: starters, pastas and desserts – I mean who needs more in life, and we had an incredibly cheery, attentive and well informed waitress that not only guided us through the menu but also made sure that there was not one second of the dinner we didn’t feel properly looked after, no water glass ever running empty and every extra request immediately dealt with and dealt with with a smile to boost.
Starving after a particularly long Friday at work, we went straight in for the starters and a dish of watermelon, yellow tomatoes, feta and mint was all kinds of delicious and pretty much like summer on a plate, served with a basket of very Moorish warm sourdough that was good enough to eat by itself. Their burrata with olive oil, chilli and oregano was fine, not the best I’ve had but then again I think at Pastaio it really is all about the pasta and when it comes to that they do deliver on all fronts. My advice: if you are not desperate for a starter save the stomach space for the many pasta options on the menu as you’ll want to order everything!
Which is exactly what we did and we may not have been able to move much after dinner, we did manage to somehow make it to the cinema across the road to watch Rocketman, but every pasta dish we ordered was so damn good that it was hard not to polish it all off! And I am talking better than overhyped Padella kind of good, full of flavours and with exceptionally well-made pasta.
We were 2 people and shared 5 pasta dishes between us, which was admittedly a little excessive, but the pastas here are made to be shared and are very reasonably priced, no single dish costing more than £13 apart from the vongole linguine at £16, so come here to share away and try the amazing variety of pasta on offer! Not everything was perfect, the rigatoni with slow cooked tomato sauce and parmesan lacking a real wow factor though still more than edible, but overall I was very impressed, especially with less usual and imaginative pasta offerings like their spinach pasta with chilli, agretti (similar to monks beard) and breadcrumbs which came topped with bottarga (a salty Italian fish roe) adding an almost Japanesy salty fishy touch that sounds odd but was a real revelation, and the weekly special on their menu, a zingy and gorgeous plate of ricotta, fresh pea, pea shoots, butter and parmesan ravioli which literally melted in your mouth with every bite.
We also loved the red prawn spaghetti with plenty of chilli, and coming with the most juicy of prawns, served in their shells, that topped a perfectly prepared simple sauce with pasta that is hard to beat when done right like here. We finished off our pasta extravaganza with a plate of wild mushroom, garlic and parmesan tagliatelle which impressed with the excellent quality of the tagliatelle and fragrant mushroom medley and perfectly finished off a masterclass of pasta for us.
You can see at Pastaio they care about every step in the making of their pasta, from the dough to the final dish, and everyone with a love for Italian cooking will for sure leave this place with a big smile on their face, especially when prices are this reasonable considering its central London location. Plus for all meat eaters amongst you there is an equally enticing sounding selection of pasta options carbonara, pasta with slow cooked sausage sauce and mozzarella ravioli with a Bolognese ragu.
Dessert choices are a little more limited and my cannoli struggled with too many flavours combined into one poor canoli, no one needs orange, pistachio and chocolate in one dessert when one strong flavour would suffice, but as I said Pastaio is all about the pasta so skip the dessert, eat more pasta, wash it down with one of their nicely priced wines or prosecco slushies and have a fabulous, uncomplicated and delicious dinner!
I for one have a new go to spot to fulfil all my pasta cravings for which I would even venture into central…and that is saying something! Thank you Pastaio for making tourist hell a little more bearable!
* I was invited by Pastaio on this occasion but all views are my own and there was no obligation to post.