Strada

June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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For a meal out in the hustle and bustle of Sheffield’s town centre, it doesn’t get any better than Leopold Square. With fine italian eateries like Zizzi, Popolo and Strada; posh tapas courtesy of Platillos; flaming hot Aagrah curries; and noodles from Wagamama, the only hard part is deciding where to eat.

After ASK whet our appetite with its hit-and-miss italian grub, we settled on another italian restaurant this week; Strada.

Although there’s enough seating for a few bus loads of people inside, Strada maintains a cosy feel with lots of dark wood and intimate booths. We were escorted to one of the corner booths by a polite and friendly waitress and promptly got the party started with a bottle of white wine (expect to pay between £16 and £27) and a bottle of red (prices range from £16 to a whopping £35). The wine list is sorely lacking budget options (something around the £12-£14 range would be ideal) but taste-wise, we had no complaints about our bottles of pinot grigio (£18.50) and merlot (£15.60).

We began our dining experience with a helping of Olive Castelvetrano (that’s green olives to you and me) which were very reasonably priced at £2.50, and a basket of breads (£4.50) with those old italian classics, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

The bread basket and dipping oils were a massive hit at our table. The waitress was even kind enough to leave us full bottles of olive oil and vinegar so we could dip away to our hearts’ content. At other restaurants, we’ve had the staff dole out a strict ration of oil and vinegar, and inevitably you run out of oil before you run out of bread. The variety and quantity of bread was a pleasant surprise; our basket contained the standard white and brown bread, but also olive bread and crispy pane carasau. Easily one of the best “bread and oil” starters we’ve had in an italian restaurant, and the quantity is perfect for sharing as our bread basket could have comfortably served 4-6 people.

At this point, bowls for the waste seafood shells arrived at our table, which made the seafood-lovers amongst us very excited. Any seafood dish that warrants an extra bowl for the shells is always going to be something a little bit special.

Our seafood bounty included a Risotto Frutti Di Mare (£11.75), a risotto of squid, mussels, prawns and clams. Risottos are reliably rich, but the thick sauce means they’re not always the prettiest of dishes. This seafood risotto was different: a light sauce meant it looked every bit as good as it tasted.

Our seafood-fanatic reviewer raved that it was one of the best seafood risottos they’d ever had.

Pasta is another italian staple, so we couldn’t leave without sampling Strada’s pasta. We ordered a Panzerotti Porcini (£9.25), pasta parcels stuffed with a creamy mix of mushrooms, ricotta and provolone cheese and covered in a light broth with a few exotic-looking mushrooms scattered over the top.

Deceptively filling, this dish got another big thumbs up, especially the fragrant broth which was a nice contrast to the earthy mushroom pasta.

Another pasta dish winging its way to our table was the Spaghetti Ragu (£8.95). The beef, onion, red wine, tomato and herb ragu was perfectly seasoned, and came on a mountain of spaghetti. At just under £9, this is a value-for-money meat dish.

But if you’re a seafood-lover, you owe it to yourself to try Strada’s Tegamaccio. It’s at the more expensive end of Strada’s menu, but it’s worth every last penny of the £14.95 price tag. Essentially a posh fish stew, the tegamaccio boasts a lip-smacking selection of clams, mussels, red mullet, squid, prawns and even a shell-on king prawn. The clams, mussels and king prawn all come in their shells, giving the stew a rustic appearance, especially with the hunks of bread perched on the side of your bowl, ready for dipping.

And believe me, you’ll want to dip: the white wine and tomato based soup is heaven. Hearty and satisfying, faultlessly seasoned and packing a real wine zing, I could have drank a bowl of this on its own. In fact, I’d supped half of the soup before I even tried the seafood. When I finally got around to it, the seafood was juicy and tender, even the squid, which is so easy to overcook.

There were a few things that prevented the tegamaccio from being perfection on a plate, and one was the burnt ciabatta bread. Even worse, both pieces of bread arrived with the blackest sides turned face down in the soup, which made me wonder whether the burnt bits had been spotted by the staff. There were also capers in the stew, which kept delivering an unexpected squirt of pickled liquid that didn’t compliment the dish at all. Even with these minor quibbles, Strada’s tegamaccio is one of the best seafood dishes I’ve had the pleasure of devouring.

Miraculously after so much top notch grub, we still had some room left, so we ordered a few reasonably-priced coffees (£2.20 for a latte.) The lattes were smartly presented in neat little glass mugs and white saucers.

For the more boozy members of our party, a shot of after-dinner amaretto (£3.20) was on the cards. Alongside the drinks, we ordered a portion of Strada’s tiramisu (£4.95). For just under a fiver, Strada plates up a doorstop of caffeine-soaked sponge and mascarpone cream drizzled with sticky coffee syrup.

Be warned, this block of cake is not for the faint hearted, and I have no shame in admitting I had to share it with another member of our party. A genuinely indulgent dessert!

If you’re craving something a bit more delicate, the Mousse Al Cioccolato (£5.25) is like a work of an art on a dessert plate. A molded chocolate case filled with fluffy mousse and adorned with a row of fresh strawberries, this dessert is finished off with a dollop of cream, a drop of delicious strawberry coulis and a chocolate filigree. The end result is a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

A fussy, fancy dessert that tastes as good as it looks, thanks to some of the most decadent chocolate you’re likely to come across.

For high street italian food, Strada is a tough one to beat. There were a few niggling problems with my fish stew and the wine is expensive and can really push up your bill if you’re not careful, but overall the food was excellent, and the bread basket starter is highly recommended. Not a cheap evening out, but for the quality of the food, the convenience of the city centre location and the spacious surroundings, this is a top high street italian restaurant.

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