Welcome to the fifth Food Spark self-guided safari, where we’ll lead you along a carefully curated route, visiting on-trend food hotspots to keep your finger on the pulse.
As well as breaking down the facts, we’ll take you to six pasta-perfect establishments in central London, from street-food vendors to high-end restaurants. We highlight why each venue is interesting and what you should try when you visit, so you don’t miss out on ‘that’ signature dish.
You could take our word for it and digest these gems on-screen. But it’s more fun, and a lot more satisfying, to taste their food first-hand.
We’re experiencing a pasta revolution, centred in London and gravitating out. Since the famed Padella launched in 2016, consumers’ pasta expectations have reached new heights and savvy hospitality entrepreneurs have responded with new and exciting concepts, focusing on small and perfectly formed menus.
Instagram is jam-packed with pasta-related content; mouth-wateringly real, they evoke a strong feeling of happiness and nostalgia. Plant-based eating is worth a mention too; as waves of consumers try to reduce the amount of meat that they eat, pasta is a great vehicle to turn humble vegetables into something delightfully delectable.
The revolution is redeeming carbs following years of demonization. When Instagrammers like @pastagrannies attract over 201k followers, it’s clear consumers are craving quality, crafted pasta just like 'nonna' used to make.
This food safari pulls together a range of pasta specialists, each with a distinct point of difference and reason to visit. Together, they showcase the high calibre of pasta craft in the capital that’s luring in the masses.
1st stop: Emilia
Address: 7 Haunch of Venison Yard, Mayfair, London W1K 5ES
Style: Regional Italian executed with precision
About: Emilia has received back-to-back praise since it opened; Jay Rayner declared it “some of London’s best Italian Food,” and Fay Maschler wrote it offered “one of London’s best lunches.” The restaurant is inspired by the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and comes from the founders of three of London’s best restaurants (The Quality Chop House, Clipstone and Portland). A dedicated pasta menu showcases meat and veggie-based dishes, and most come in two sizes so that you can scale up or down. This is refined pasta, delivered with finesse, perfectly suited to the restaurant’s gallery setting within Bonhams auction-house.
What to order: Oxtail tortellini in brodo is a must; the broth warms the cockles on a winter’s day and is skillfully loaded with flavour. If you’re sharing dishes, the staff thoughtfully pre-divide portions to avoid any mess and, more importantly, to make sure you get your fair share.
Travel to 2nd stop: Walk 15 minutes to Norma.
2nd stop: Norma
Address: 8 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LS
Style: Sunny, Sicilian spirit in a stylish London townhouse
About: Norma is the new restaurant from the team behind The Stafford Hotel. Anticipation began mounting when chef, restaurateur and food writer, Ben Tish, was announced as culinary director. Ben heads up the Sicilian-Moorish-influenced restaurant, with an informal menu that brings a touch of the Med into the restaurant’s intimate townhouse setting. A carefully composed selection of four pasta dishes feature on the menu, all at a pleasing price of £9 each.
What to order: The taglioni with sardines, fennel, raisins and pine nuts already has a cult-like following that celebrates the finely cut pasta noodles, slurping consistency and all-round addictiveness.
Travel to 3rd stop: Walk seven minutes to Lina Stores at Arcade Food Theatre.
3rd stop: Lina Stores at Arcade Food Theatre
Address: 103-105 New Oxford St, London WC1A 1DB
Style: Quick-fix pasta with no compromise
About: This 75-year-old Italian institution has brought its well-loved, handcrafted pasta to new market hall concept, Arcade Food Theatre. Pasta plates are served from a purpose-built kiosk and the best seats in the house are at the counter so you can watch the chefs in action. True to the Lina Stores quality ethos, Italian ingredients like Piedmontese mushrooms, Ferrandinesi olives and black truffle are central to each dish.
What to order: Pici with Porcini mushrooms and Umbrian sausage is the perfect umami-rich winter warmer. Pick up a cannolo filled with ricotta, pistachio and chocolate to go. Just because.
Travel to 4th stop: Walk seven minutes to Strozzapreti at Kerb Seven Dials.
4th stop: Strozzapreti at Seven Dials Market
Address: 35 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LD
Style: A fresh take on pasta using British ingredients
About: From one new market hall to another… Seven Dials Market opened its doors in September and Strozzapreti, from the Franco Manca founders, are at the pasta helm. There are six pastas on the menu, and from as little as £5.50, Strozzapreti are well placed to serve the busy Covent Garden lunchtime market. Co-founder Bridget Hugo and pasta specialist Andrea Beccaceci teamed up to develop the concept, and they settled on a core UK-inspired pasta dough recipe made with durum flour and organic English spelt.
What to order: The concept’s namesake, the strozzapreti, of course. It’s served with a four-cheese fonduta sauce and British watercress oil. You might just be going back for seconds.
Travel to 5th stop: Walk seven minutes to Bancone.
5th stop: Bancone
Address: 39 William IV St, London WC2N 4DD
Style: Pasta simplicity that’s worth the hype
About: With a hot new second opening in Soho, Bancone brings the buzz to London's pasta scene and is the place for multiple plates of pretty much perfect pasta. The concept takes inspiration from regions across Italy and the pasta is made by hand each day: pull up a seat at the bar to get near the action and watch chefs expertly toss mafalde over the flames. With around twelve dishes on offer each day, you won’t be short on choice.
What to order: Bancone’s signature dish is undoubtedly fazzoletti silk handkerchiefs with walnut butter and confit egg yolk. Paper-thin, al dente pasta sheets are coated in a heavenly rich sauce, studded with walnut pieces for added texture.
Travel to 6th stop: Take the Piccadilly Line from Leicester Square to Knightsbridge (just four stops, eight minutes) and walk five minutes to Sette.
6th stop: Sette
Address: 4 Knightsbridge Green, London SW1X 7QA
Style: New York-style pasta arrives in London
About: Italian Sette opened its doors in Knightsbridge and is the brainchild of the Scarpetta Group, who launched their first outpost in New York in 2008. The menu oozes Italian-American flavour and the higher prices (between £18-30) reflect the premium location. Pasta dishes make up about a quarter of the menu; five dishes all showcase different handmade varieties. The Sette philosophy is based on seasonal, quality sourcing and mastering in-house techniques.
What to order: Sette's classic dish, spaghetti with tomato and basil, shot to fame after a dazzling New York Times review by Frank Bruni. It’s simple, but special.