As a vegan, finding fresh, dairy-free pasta can feel like mission impastable. Seriously, it’s hard to find something that doesn't taste like rubber or cardboard. Having experienced miserable plates of overcooked gnocchi and packet pasta from the supermarket, I genuinely felt like I’d never find anything as good as the real thing. That’s where Pastaio comes in. The cult favourites have made a real name for themselves with their fresh Italian plates, and now they've made a move into plant-based territory. So naturally, I leapt at the chance to try their vegan menu in Shepherd's Bush.
Now I’m not usually keen to go to Westfield, believe it or not, the idea of being suffocated by people while surrounded by things I can’t afford doesn’t appeal to me. However, this was a trip well worth taking and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the usually-manic terrace area was at a comfortable level of busy. Pastaio has prime real estate too, right in the heart of the action, with a large window at the front where you can watch your pasta being made right before you. We cosied up under the heaters of the patio area and enjoyed the laid-back ambiance (and slight smell of parmesan) with a playlist of Talking Heads and Gary Numan before diving in head-first.
To start? Mouthwateringly soft sourdough with Pastaio olive oil (£3) and fennel, parsley, taggiasca olive and orange salad (£8) with a slightly tangy dressing made even fresher with the addition of pomegranate and watermelon. Of course, there was no way I could turn down the blood orange, Campari and gin slushy (£5) which is just a deliciously fun, grown-up twist on a classic - minus all that sugary syrup.
Then time for the main draw… the pasta. I opted for a glass of vegan wine (from £4.50 on tap), to accompany my wild mushroom reginette (£10) which still makes me drool every time I think about it. The ever-so-slightly springy pasta was cooked to perfection, paired with the earthiness of the mushrooms, a dash of garlic, fresh lemon zest and parsley, before all coming together in harmony with a creamy sauce. For just a tenner, the dish was a really decent portion size (but I still vacuumed it up in one swift go).
Having rounded off the trip with a cherry cooler cocktail (£7) and surprisingly moreish chocolate sorbet (£6), I couldn’t help but wonder, has Pastaio staked its claim as the city's best vegan-friendly pasta restaurant?
The DesignMyNight Digest
Vegans, rejoice! There's a new place in town that's ready to cater to our carb cravings. Pairing its hearty plant-based plates (I'm still dreaming about that creamy mushroom sauce) with an affordable price tag, this place is definitely going to be my go-to for a pasta fix.
Is all this making you hungry? Check out our guide to pasta in London here.