Places To Eat In London: Lina Stores, Soho
It’s probably the cooler weather and the fact I’ve not yet sussed the right setting for the central heating at home but I’ve been experiencing unexplained down periods where I’ve been feeling like I just want to cuddle up in my duvet and binge watch old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, and asking around I’m not the only one who has been feeling like this at the moment. Thankfully, though, I’ve found the cure: a big plate of pasta. This is why last month I could be found one lunchtime propping up the bar at Lina Stores with Kelly, sipping white wine and a limoncello spritz or two, ordering way too many antipasti and eating our body weight in fresh pasta.
Lina Stores is a Soho institution on Brewer Street, it is the Italian deli in the city, and was one of the only places you could get authentic ingredients like good olive oil pre the Italian food revolution here in the UK, where extra virgin was something you bought in small bottles from the pharmacy to treat ear infections. Lina Stores on Brewer Street remains an institution, but the Lina Stores I’m talking about here is on Greek Street. You see, every day since they opened on Brewer Street they’ve been churning out delicious, fresh pasta every day either to take home, or to eat propped on the couple of bar stools in the deli, or on an outdoor table in the summer. Their pasta is so good, and was so popular, that they’ve now opened up a restaurant dedicated to the stuff.
We kicked off with some antipasti. By far the best were the pork belly sandwiches, which were way more than the sum of their parts: perfect Italian bread, simply stuffed with slow roasted, succulent pork, and nothing else. Utterly outstanding and not to be missed. The plate of rich, creamy and slightly salty buffalo ricotta and ‘nduja (spicy, spreadable Italian sausage) was wonderful served with crusty bread, through there was not enough bread to go with it – to avoid (unhappy) waste, perhaps order this one with an extra side of bread? The Polpette di Melanzane (aubergine fritters with tomato on top) were also excellent, and a great nibble to get if you’re having drinks. All of these we sort of had our eye on, but also came highly recommended by our server who was super helpful in narrowing down our choices (we wanted to eat everything, basically!)
Next, we busied ourselves with three outstanding pasta dishes. One of my favourites was the Agnolotti Verdi con Ricotta e Tartufo: spinach agnolotti (basically quenelle shaped ravioli) stuffed with ricotta and served in a buttery sauce, covered in black truffle shavings. It was rich, earthy and indulgent, and they’d got just the right amount of truffle so it was not overpowering. If you’re like me and can’t resist truffle pasta, this one is for you.
Next came a perfect plate of a absolute classic, spaghetti with fresh crab and chilli. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the crab sauce insanely full of flavour, clinging to the pasta and not just pooling on the plate. They also did not skimp on the crab meat, which is the biggest, usual crime with this dish.
However, the one stand out, totally blew us away pasta dish that has to take the crown as one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had in London was what was actually one of the simplest on the menu, the Schiaffoni con Burrata, Salsa di Datterino, Pinoli e Basilico: burrata stuffed schiaffoni (triangular pasta parcels) served with a simple, but perfect tomato sauce and chopped, toasted pine nuts. This dish was more than the sum of its parts; the pasta had just the perfect amount of bite, the sauce was mouthwatering, and the pine nuts just lifted the whole thing. It is one of those culinary experiences you have to live, not just look at Instagram snaps of or read about on a food blog. The chance to try this pasta is the one reason alone you need to book a table for lunch or an early/ late dinner (the only times they take reservations) or try your luck as a walk in at Lina Stores.