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Strada- A lot of hype over ..... well not a lot!!
Member Name: Lools_24
Date: 30/07/09, updated on 15/11/11 (146 review reads)
Advantages: Clean, stylish restaurants
Disadvantages: Average food, below average service
I eat out a lot but I had never eaten out at Strada until only recently where I dined at Strada restaurants twice a month. The first experience was in the Newcastle restaurant which was pleasant but average and the second in the Birmingham ICC restaurant where the experience was slightly below average. Before dining here a close friend had raved about how good the food was and what a "posh Italian" this was after she had dined at Strada. Being honest I thought it was exactly the same as Zizzi's or Est Est Est; average only slightly more pricey.
***Restaurant / Location***
Strada is described on the website as "all about great quality, freshly prepared pizzas, pastas and risottos served in stylish, contemporary surroundings". I would definitely agree with the later part of this statement that in the two Strada restaurants I dined in the surroundings were stylish and contemporary.
The Newcastle Strada restaurant is less than a year old, and the place does have a very "new" feel. Wooden floors, light modern furniture and a very airy clean feel to the restaurant. Dark wood with leather seating and lots of chrome. The restaurant is on two levels with a mezzanine level, and the front of the restaurant has floor to ceiling windows which makes the restaurant very light and feel spacious. The restaurant is located next to Eldon Square, Newcastle's main shopping centre. The restaurant is great for during he day and although it is in the City Centre if you are dining at night and want to go to a bar after you will need to walk 5 minutes in each direction in order to find somewhere suitable.
The Birmingham ICC restaurant also had a light and airy feel to it but not so much so as the Newcastle restaurant. Although it was raining and dull outside, however lighting in the restaurant compensated for this but did not make the lighting feel harsh and artificial. Colour scheme and décor wise this restaurant was very similar to the Newcastle restaurant. The restaurant is split over two levels a raised area which holds around 10 tables of 4 and a lower area which has around 30 tables.
The location of the restaurant is right outside of the Birmingham ICC (hence the name). The restaurant is canal side. If you cross the canal bridge you are in an area where there are lots of bars less than a one minute walk away.
The toilets in both restaurants were also immaculate as was every aspect of the restaurant. A very positive first impression!
***Food/ Menu/ Prices ***
The menu for both times I dined here was exactly the same. I did not sample the desserts therefore I cannot comment on these.
The menu has a wide choice of dishes of pizza, pasta, risottos and meat, although in comparison to some chain restaurants the menu does not have as many dishes. The starters menu for example in Strada contained 8 dishes; a mix of hot and cold starters, 6 pasta dishes and 4 risotto dishes. The choice of pizzas is quite large. The first time I visited I ordered a mozzarella salad (£4.95) this was a generous portion but was average. The salad was fresh however the mozzarella pieces were overly rubber and the cheese was not as creamy as you get in the likes of Zizzi's or Est Est Est and bordered on bland. The second time I dined here I ordered polenta con funghi (£4.95). This was gorgeous; the polenta was cooked perfectly and was moist. The mushrooms and sauce was creamy and you could taste garlic but the garlic was not overpowering and spoilt the other flavours in the sauce.
From the main menu, the first time I dined here I ordered Pollo con Funghi (£10.95) which I ate but did not fully enjoy it. This was chicken, with porchini mushrooms with cream and marjoram sauce with new potatoes. The new potatoes were not cooked fully so were hard and raw. The sauce on the chicken was lovely but because the chicken was overcooked it was dry and therefore I felt that there was not enough sauce.
On my second visit I opted for a pasta dish. I could not decide between Orecchiette Salsicca e Brocolli (£8.95) or Panzerotti Porchini (£8.95). I opted for the Orcecchiette as I liked the sound of the red chilli butter as a sauce however my friend ordered the Panzerotti Porchini so we decided to share our dishes. When my meal arrived I was surprised at the amount of pasta and the lack of "sauce" the pasta just appeared dry. The dish did contain sausage, which did not look like sauce pieces more just mashed up meat however not a lot of it. There was also 3 small pieces of broccoli within the dish. Not a good start. I love spicy food and I am the type of person who eats jalapeño peppers by the jar. When I tasted the dish even I was surprised how spicy the meal was. After chewing about 3 pieces of pasta all I could taste was chilli. My mouth was actually burning and extremely uncomfortable; a sensation I rarely experience. All other flavours could not be tasted due to the hot chilli taste in my mouth. The sausage just had a mushy consistency in my mouth and I could just taste chilli rather than a meaty taste. My friend who I was sharing my dish with likes medium but not overly hot dishes. After one taste of my pasta she was gulping down wine complaining her mouth was on fire. After the remaining members of the group tried the meal they all agreed the meal was inedible for "normal" people. When I looked back at the menu there was no mention of this being a hot dish or a warning that it was overly spicy. I ate a fair amount but due to the amount of pasta left about half of the dish.
What was surprising is that everyone else who ordered pasta dishes had small portions.
We ordered two bottles of house wine which was £12.95 per bottle. Average price for a bottle of house white if not a couple of pounds higher than in Zizzi's but it was very nice house white and did not taste cheap like some house wines.
The first time I dined here the bill came to £39 for two courses for two people and two soft drinks (inc service charge of 10%) . The second time the bill came to £94.90 for two courses for 4 people which included two bottles of wine. We viewed this as reasonable, if not slightly higher than I would expect to pay for a chain restaurant of this quality as the food was very average and service was extremely slow. A 10% "optional" service charge is automatically added to the bill. On my first visit Mr Lools and I paid this, but on the second visit in Birmingham to Strada my group of friends refused to pay a service charge for service that was so poor!
As I mentioned the service was not excellent; in the Newcastle restaurant average to poor, in the Birmingham Strada poor to very poor.
In Newcastle the restaurant was half full however there seemed to be a lot of staff wandering around doing nothing. It took 10 minutes after closing our menus to notice we were ready to order. The staff were friendly both who served drinks and those that served food (it was apparent some staff were there for drinks and some to serve food and they don't do help each other out when clearing tables etc). Almost 45 minutes after entering the restaurant our starters were served. This seemed a long time to wait for two mozerella salads! A quick two course early evening meal took around 1 hour 45 minutes. This was made worse by the fact it took 15 minutes for the bill to arrive after we asked.
The service is the Birmingham restaurant was really poor. Once we were seated it took the waitress 20 minutes to take our orders. And another 10 minutes to give us drinks after that. As you can imagine after 30 minutes I was pretty thirsty!! The starters came after 20 minutes from ordering which was not too bad, however we were one knife short on the table. The waitress took over 10 minutes to come back with another knife. If the restaurant was busy then this would have been forgivable. However there were only 5 other tables of people in the restaurant and 5 members of staff milling around. Once finished the starters the plates were left on the table for 15 minutes when our main courses arrived. One member of staff brought our mains over whilst another cleared the table. We ordered another bottle of wine however this took 15 minutes to arrive. When we eventually came to get the bill we refused to pay the service charge as we felt not only were the staff slow for no apparent reason they were not at all friendly or helpful.
The service was pretty slow on both occasions but this was more than likely down to individual staff members on these occasions. The food was ok but nothing memorable or dishes that you could not get from any other Italian chain restaurant. The Strada restaurants that I visited were very light and airy and the restaurant was very contemporary, and probably more appealing aesthetically than other chain restaurants. Not a bad restaurant but not actually very good either!
Summary: An average Italian chain serving average food despite being marketed as more upmarket