Newest Review: ... to describe to you in detail the décor and style of the restaurant but I am afraid the décor was so innocuous I barely remembered what the... more
pasta, pizza, grills, seafood
Cafe Pasta (London)
Member Name: EarlofAldgate
Cafe Pasta (London)
Advantages: wider range than you expect
Disadvantages: dont get stuck downstairs on your own
I would not be surprised if you hadn't heard of Café Pasta, they only have half a dozen sites and all but one are based in London tucked away slightly off the beaten track. But don't let this put you off, I f you're tired of Pizza Express, Strada, Prezzo or Ask why not give this little gem a try? I have been eating there on and off for the last 7 years and the menu continues to expand, moving from pasta to 12" pizza (Strada sized - take note Pizza Express!) and a selection of grills.
The Shaftesbury Avenue branch is at the top of Shaftesbury avenue at the Covent garden end, making it perfect for a meal before visiting the Shaftesbury theatre (for Daddy cool, the Boney M musical), Freuds for cocktails or the Odeon cinema. Nearest tubes are Covent garden or a 10 minute walk from Holborn.
The Restaurant itself is the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue & Monmouth street and has 2 entrances. If you feel the need to search for a map the postcode is WC2H 8JB.
The restaurant is quite small (about 10 tables upstairs & a bit bigger
downstairs) so you can't fail to be greeted as soon as you walk in the door.
The kitchen must be downstairs, I didn't see it, and upstairs is a waiter station where they store all the drinks so there's always someone at hand if you want a top up or the bill. Against the wall is comfy cushioned bench seating with regular dining chairs facing (and obviously a table between the 2). Since it is on a corner everyone can see out of the window giving it a light airy feel. At the moment one side of the room is available for smokers and since I smoke I can't really comment but I would imagine its very noticeable that people smoke if you're at the other side of the room as it's so small. On the wall is a blackboard with a list of specials, it does change regularly but more of a rotation rather than completely different items every time.
When we arrived we were greeted, seated and handed menus immediately, since it is quite small the waiter could see the moment we had put down the menus and came over to take our order. Unlike some restaurants, when they offered olives and we said no they didn't start reeling off a list of items
(up-selling) as he clearly saw we weren't interested and wanted to go straight into the main menu order. I picked the wine first, a Merlot at £17.95, the other wines ranged from about £14 to £45 if you want champagne so about typical of most London places.
We couldn't decide between mushroom Bruschetta or Mussels and as we usually try each other's dishes we went for the easier option, the Antipasti. It cost about £7 but the quality of the meats was evident so I didn't feel it was so expensive. It comes with a selection of cured meats on a bed of rocket, 2 types of olives, garlic butter & dough sticks. It is served on a wooden chopping board and since it was so rich we found it to be just enough without over facing us for our main course.
Usually when we visit Café Pasta I have the big Pizza (£9) and the Countess has pasta with pesto & buffalo mozzarella or Carbonara (both around £8) but this time she was a bit more adventurous and ordered from the grill menu. As I said earlier the Pizzas are quite large and I went for my usual, the Carne (meat feast). Normally I don't like pepperoni anywhere except at Pizza Express but the pepperoni on the carne is perfect, not too spicy but enough of a kick so as you know it's not just supermarket sausage. There are slices of Parma ham, ground beef - with a bit of a kick too and a handful of hot peppers. The Countess had a duck risotto which was a duck wing on a bed of rice in a very rich dark sauce. Once I had tried a few too many spoonfuls I realized I had made the wrong choice and that I need to be more adventurous next time we go.
The Pizza was almost too big and the duck so rich that we almost didn't have room for pudding, but the menu seemed to have changed since our last visit and we were itching to try the new hot fudge brownies and one of the new cheesecakes.
They have the usual selection of Italian desserts like Tiramisu and summer pudding but I am a chocolate fudge type dessert fan and the Countess likes her Cheesecake so the decision was easy.
Hot chocolate brownies with ice cream was a touch small and at almost £5 quite expensive but absolutely delicious. Fudge sauce was drizzled all over the brownie and the ice cream and brownie was full of chopped nuts which I wasn't really expecting. Cheesecake being cheesecake was very rich (she chose double chocolate ) and again was quite a slender slice for the price.
Fit to burst
After all this we were totally stuffed, not even room for my usual amaretto coffee and I had a funny feeling we had already spent quite a lot anyway.
The Waiter brought the bill over without being asked after we had declined coffee, it was £56 which was a nice surprise mostly because of the wine and the Duck being £12, so nothing out of the ordinary in London.
I will definitely continue to eat in Café Pasta, sometimes it can be a bit pricey but the quality of service and cosy atmosphere make it worthwhile when there are so many chains out there where you're seen as just another customer. The only drawback with the size of the restaurant is if they are full upstairs and you are seated downstairs you can sometimes get overlooked a little, but since the food for people upstairs has to come past you from the kitchen it's never for long. This time we were fine as it was Tuesday and only half full. I couldn't see any disabled access & I have never seen any children in the restaurant - there is no child menu although you could probably ask for a smaller portion eg pasta comes in 2 sizes, starter or main
Forget about the name, there's about a dozen pizzas to choose from, mussels, salmon, steak and salads making it more Café Italiano than Café Pasta
Kensington High Street
Stratford Upon Avon
Also posted on ciao
Summary: great food & service