Chef and restaurateur Stevie Parle has recently opened a new pasta restaurant in Carnaby called Pastaio. The restaurant shares a similar concept to Padella – focusing on small-plate hand made pasta. They did a soft launch for a week and we took advantage of the 50% off discount to try it out.
We arrived for a Saturday lunch at around 1 pm. With a no booking rule and the prime location, I was surprised to see there’s no queue outside the restaurant. Soon then I realised that is because they have this system where you leave your name and phone number, and they’d send you a text when the table’s ready. We did the same and wandered around the area. In about 20 minutes or so, we got the text and headed back to the restaurant.
The restaurant has a really bright and minimalist setting, and features a communal sharing table concept. The menu was pretty simple and straightforward – and also pretty similar to Padella’s. The pasta section especially shares a lot of similarities. They pretty much have the same general idea on the pasta menu but, of course, added their own twist and signatures.
Cacio E Pepe Bucatini (£7)
Cacio E Pepe, cooked with just cheese and pepper, is a really good dish to test whether the restaurant is of real quality due to the simplicity of the dish. And Pastaio has passed the test. The use of bucatini pasta carried the dish well. I liked how it’s not overly saucy with a good balance to highlight the al dente texture of the pasta. It also has an outstanding savoury and peppery flavour which we really enjoyed. The simplicity, taste, texture – we loved it. It’s as if we couldn’t get enough of it and we just want to double up our portion!
Crab, Courgette, Yellow Tomato, Marjoram, Fusilli (£11)
Padella has a crab pasta dish, and so does Pastaio. While the former completely blew my mind away, the latter was a tad underwhelming. There was a decent amount of shredded crab meat in the dish but the dish in overall didn’t scream much of seafood. The crab flavour was relatively mild in my opinion and would personally like it to be sharper. I did enjoy the use of marjoram as it adds a great flavour to the dish, but it alone won’t be enough to really elevate the dish to another level. As for the pasta, I’m afraid it was too soft to my liking, especially when I know they can deliver perfectly al dente pasta like in their Cacio E Pepe.
… I very much welcome the restaurant idea of Pastaio but it does need a little more work to truly stand out. It has a great concept but it’s not enough to beat its competitors. Especially with Padella’s strong reputation and popularity, it’s going to take more for Pastaio to reach the same level (though Pastaio for sure offers better seating than Padella). But then do bear in mind it was merely a soft launch and we shouldn’t be too harsh on them. I look forward to revisiting in the future and see what they are truly capable of in terms of pasta!
Meats not halal. Vegetarian & seafood options available
Nearest station: Oxford Circus