Places To Eat In London: Pastaio, Soho
I know it is a bit unfair to compare one restaurant to another (I remember sitting next to a well know chef at a dinner where he was ranting about how unfair it was to review his pub and another he saw as another caliber in the same Guardian review), but I think you can’t talk about any fresh pasta restaurant in London without talking about Padella. I walked past Padella every day for almost 10 months living in Borough, and while I tried several times, never managed to get a table. So, now I want to tell you about a great new(ish) place in Soho where the pasta is so good I’m going to give up trying Padella: Pastaio. While they also don’t take reservations, they have a lovely big space off of Carnaby Street, and you can actually go in at lunchtime and get a table.
The menu is small but perfectly formed, and there is a fantastic selection of wine by the glass. That, and the seats in the window make it the perfect place for solo lunching. I’d not had breakfast so I went for two plates of pasta; a proper portion, and something smaller. All the pasta is handmade on site, and if you’re after seafood spaghetti get the beautiful, two tone crab and chilli agretti, and don’t forget to go for the optional dusting of bottarga on top. The pasta is toothsome, the crab generous without being too much, and there is just that hint of fennel in there that makes it a little different from what you’d make at home.
On the other hand if you’re after something a little meatier get one of the most popular dishes in the whole place; order the wild boar, rabbit and pork agnoli. These delicious, melt in the mouth little parcels of pork and game have the most delicate pasta wrapping (I definitely can’t get my homemade pasta that thin!), come in a half sauce, half broth, a generous amount of parmesan and just a hint of sage from the little leaf garnishing each one. I’d recommend everyone gets their own plates, then a plate of these to share!
If you have room for dessert (to be honest after all of that pasta I did not, but I needed something sweet to finish it all off!) order one of the ricotta, orange blossom and saffron stuffed cannoli. A little bigger than the cannoli I usually order, it is the perfect amount of rich and crisp, while still being light enough to not leave you feeling totally stuffed after all that pasta, then dessert. However, the ice cream list at Pastaio looks awesome, too; I was very tempted by the cherry and amaretto biscuit!
I know as I was dining alone this is a bit of a short (but sweet!) review, but I can’t stress enough how much Pastaio is worth the time to visit, especially if you’re a fresh, homemade pasta fan. Honestly? I think it is the best plate (okay, fine I had two!) of pasta I’ve had anywhere, not just in London!