I don’t like chain restaurants. I don’t think anyone does. They are bleak. Most make me wonder whether Lord Voldemort has recently visited, devoured a baby and upon leaving sucked away all the ambience leaving a soulless cavern for you to eat your substandard meal in.
They’re invariably staffed by those without a glimpse of interest in you/the food/the experience, menus are dull, food is average (to below average) and you usually leave wondering what the point in it all had been.
I believe the menus of such establishments as Pizza Express, Zizzi and the like to be written by an all powerful oligarch in some kind of super kitchen, somewhere. This one person probably writes the menus for the whole lot, they’re all so bloody similar. This person never visits the restaurants who serve the food he’s dreamt up whilst presumably scoffing Philadelphia and picking random ingredients out of his sick head. He probably can’t even cook.
It is for this reason that I wasn’t expecting greatness when I visit Strada in the delightful (gahh-let- me-out-it’s-killing-me) tourist trap that is Leicester Square. You may wonder what I was doing there, and to be honest so do I. The truth is I had some Tesco vouchers to use up, and one can never resist a bargain.
Leicester Square is very busy. You’d expect the eateries of the area to be busy also, despite the fact that they are mostly dire. Strada, though, was empty… at lunchtime, on a Saturday. It was a sign.
Bravely we soldiered on and found a table. First impressions were not entirely dreadful. Despite being empty the restaurant looked fairly ok and probably would have had a pleasant atmosphere had they had any other diners. We got a menu promptly, and drinks orders were taken. There was no smile from the waiter but I can forgive that. He might’ve been having a bad day.
Wine was fine and we received a bottle of water for free. It was tap water, but it came in a posh glass bottle and we didn’t have to ask for it. The tap water charade is usually one to boil the blood. You want what? TAP Water? From a TAP? You might as well drink face first out of a muddy watering hole. Is that what you usually do? Probably. (says their disapproving look). I don’t care, I’m not paying £5 for a bottle of bloody mineral water.
Sadly as I was quenching my thirst with the delicious taste of water from a tap things took a drastic turn for the worst. This was because we made the mistake of ordering food. Two pizzas, to be precise. In an Italian restaurant, that was empty. How long do you estimate until food arrival? About an hour? Yeah sounds about right. This actually happened.
And then, as my gnawing stomach began to devour my internal organs in starvation, two pizzas arrived. They looked ok… see. Look reasonable, yes?
But wait…one of the pizzas which we had waited an hour for was COLD. That was what the wait had been. They had been chilling the pizza for us. Bloody marvellous. The other one suffered from a faint podiatry aftertaste, presumably related to the god awful attempt at gorgonzola it was slathered in.
Needless to say I lodged a full complaint with the good people of Strada who informed me that the pizza was supposed to be served cold. Yes that’s right, cold pizza, on purpose. I won’t be back.
The Verdict: No, never.
1/10 (for having a roof)
39 Panton Street