Some people collect stamps, others collect vinyl records, but there’s only one collection I care about, and that’s Stevie Parle’s restaurant empire. And so far, I’ve done pretty well, with three out of the six (though Dock Kitchen has now closed down) ticked off in my notebook. So when a chance to try the latest addition, Pastaio, came up, I was the first to barge my way through the Soho doors.
The first restaurant in this part of London, the newbie in Parle’s gang has let its hair down a bit - it’s still as pretty as Craft and Rotorino - but in a more fun, bright, and obvious way. Tables spill out onto the street, and three sets of French doors peel back, letting in a taste of the warmth to inside diners. Interiors are poppy and young; one entire wall bounces with geometric shapes and tables are in long rows, giving it a communal, chat-to-your-neighbour feel.
If you hadn’t guessed by the name, it’s all carbs glorious carbs with Pastaio, namely freshly cooked pasta dishes. We started with a burrata (£8.50) - because pretty much anyone who’s ever been had recommended it - and I, too, will be singing its praises. The dish may have been subtle but its flavours were knockout; the burrata so creamy, we lapped it up like two of the metaphorical cats, mopping up the olive oil and chilli, for added depth. We also split the Fried Mozzarella, Nduja Sandwich (£5.50), which was more toasty, with thick wedges of sourdough encasing oozing mozzarella, and the sweetness of the honey helping to soften the burn of the spicy sausage.
From hangover comforting to giving Sophia Loren everything she has, pasta is a dish fit for every occasion. I opted for black and white spaghetti, which was swirled with crab, chilli and rocket (£11.50) - a fresh, but little too salty tang from the generous serving of white crab meat.
The wine list is short and sweet, with affordable whites and reds which are easy enough to knock back over pasta, but it’s the Prosecco Slushy that will get you. With a choice of either lemon and grappa (£4.5) or strawberry and vermouth (£5.5), it’s the sort of drink that starts a summer evening with an illicit confession or two and ends it with a one woman tribute act to Leona Lewis on the tube.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Opening multiple restaurants is always a hard task, but the reason Parle's are some of my favourite is their individuality. Each one has its own voice and personality, while all keeping excellently prepared dishes and dreamy interiors. Pastaio is a welcome addition to the family, with freshly cooked pasta that could be gobbled in a lunch break, or over a long dinner with three too many prosecco slushies.