Once again, Martin Money Saving Expert – patron Saint of cheap pizza – came up trumps with BOGOF vouchers, and so off we went on my first visit to Strada. I was rather excited as they’re apparently the main competition for Pizza Express; aka The High Street Pizza Chain Benchmark.
I’d been a bit bored earlier at work and browsed their menu online. I was pleased to see that they offered one of my favourite topping combinations; ham, mushrooms, and olives (meat and a double dose of umami). My excitement level was set to medium-high. At the restaurant itself I couldn’t decide between that one and a spicier option, but eventually decided to go with my gut instinct (pun!).
First impression: The restaurant was tastefully decorated though the deep reds and the mood lighting combined somewhat murkily. Couple of nice touches; I particularly liked the tap water served in refrigerated Grolsch style pop-top bottles, and the glasses were pretty nice as well. At the end of the night they got an indie point by playing We’re From Barcelona.
Pizza itself was in a slight naan bread shape, which I’m a fan of. Perfectly symmetric circles always look a bit machine-made and I like the more rustic hand stretched approach implied by the tear-drop on my plate.
The base itself was really good. Nice and floury, thin but not so thin that it shatters at the touch of a fork. Slight charring. All good things. The mozzarella hadn’t quite started to brown yet, which I don’t mind that much but as the pizza cools the cheese can get slightly rubbery. There was a generous helping of toppings evenly distributed, which is always welcome (particularly after the 5 olive fiasco in Prezzo). The waiter also brought a bottle of chilli oil stuffed with dried chillies if I wanted to spice things up a little. Gave the oil a spin on one section. It didn’t really pack a punch, instead it packed a slow-burning jujitsu arm lock; pleasantly surprising. The toppings started to get a little sickly as I progressed through the pizza, but I endeavoured and the summit was scaled. Celebrated with a macchiato.
The lady-friend had a ‘Rustica’ pizza which combined thick slices of Italian sausage, roasted plum tomatoes, ‘caramelised’ onion and some form of artichoke (I get them confused). It was also rather good. I had her leftovers cold for lunch just now confirming one of my feelings that cold leftover pizza is one of the greatest lunches known to man. Up there with re-heated leftover take away curry and re-heated leftover take away Chinese.
All in all, I don’t think it was quite at the standard of Pizza Express, but I’m definitely happy to go again (if only to sample that spicier option). Their bases were better than Pizza Express, but Strada just couldn’t compete with the depth of the Pizza Express menu (for pizza at least, they do offer other kinds of dishes if that’s the sort of thing you’re in to…).