Searching for some good noontime nourishment after a full morning of London sightseeing and shopping near Oxford Circus, my husband spotted a relatively small, nice looking Italian restaurant. As we entered Strada, I noticed the simple, modern décor and hip, yet laid-back staff and clientele. It was difficult to choose our wine, given the extensive, reasonably priced wine list. Unable to narrow it down to just one glass, I decided on a Via Nova Pinot Grigio to start and a Montepulciano rosati (rosé) with my meal.
We started by sharing the Bruschetta con Peperonata (chargrilled garlic rubbed ciabatta, with a warm caramelized pepper & onion peperonata, crumbled goats cheese & fresh basil), which was absolutely delicious- a very interesting combination of flavors. For our main courses, Michael had the Risotto Verdure (creamy risotto with freshly grilled asparagus, broad beans, peas, spring onions, zucchini, green beans, grana padano and mint, finished with baby spinach leaves) and I went with the Insalata Toscana (a hearty salad with melted buffalo mozzarella wrapped in Speck on a Tuscan salad of plum tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peppers, onion, ciabatta croutons and olives). When the word “pannacotta” appears on a dessert menu, my eyes seem to find it first and then, after my stomach informs them they’ve hit the jackpot, they refuse to read anything else. On our third date, I was delighted to find out my husband functions in the same way. So, of course we had the vanilla pannacotta with blueberries & raspberry coulis and some hearty espresso to finish off our meal- absolutely lovely.
Traveling with a husband who has worked in the wine, beer, restaurant, and nightclub industries and who is currently a restaurant consultant and marketing specialist can be a bit of a challenge. While I am sipping wine, enjoying the ambiance and looking forward to my next course, Michael is analyzing the entire operation, critiquing the menu, and calculating the restaurant’s overhead costs and estimated profits in his mind- I’ve begun to think he actually finds this relaxing. At any rate, after every meal out, I prepare myself for his litany of what the establishment could have done better- from which I typically learn quite a bit. On the rare occasion he doesn’t have a single critique, he grabs the restaurant’s card and adds it to the pile….ahem….collection of business cards in his office. So, when I felt him slip Strada’s card into my purse as we walked out the door, I knew we had found a winner. Strada is definitely not up-scale dining, but it delivers on its promises and it leaves you wanting more of its well-executed Italian cuisine.
It was only after we were back in the States that I discovered Strada is a chain, with over 70 restaurants throughout the UK. The ambiance and look of Strada near Oxford Circus had led both my husband and me to believe that it was a one-of-a-kind, boutique restaurant. My only question is – when is Strada coming to the US?!
Monday through Friday, 12:00pm-5:00pm, Strada offers a “prix fixe”- reduced price lunchtime menu consisting of a pasta entrée and a glass of wine or beer for around £8.50. They also over an evening menu from Sunday through Thursday after 5:00 pm, 2 courses for £12.50 or 3 courses for £15.50.