Strada at The Oracle RiversideBy Hilary Scott
September 23, 2009
You don’t have to ask me twice to go to a risotto festival.
But when I got to the one currently running at Strada in The Oracle the charming waiter had to ask me several times which variety I wanted.
The funghi with rich mushrooms and chestnuts (risotto funghi e castagne)? The lobster and prawn with chill and tomato (risotto all’aragosta e gamberoni)? The risotto verdure – asparagus, broad beans, peas, spring onions, zucchini, green beans, grana padano, mint, baby spinach?
I’ll have the mushroom. Yes I will. Oh, but hang on.
What about the gorgeous-sounding risotto alla zucca – pumpkin and butternut squash, sautéed pancetta, wilted spinach and pine nuts? Sounds great doesn’t it?
No it’s the mushroom for definite. Yes, yes.
Then the charming waiter, keen for us to know every last risotto on offer explains two more.
The risotto cappesante – damn, it’s my favourite shellfish, scallops, with leeks and pancetta, white wine, lemon and more.
And what? A frutti di mare, from the south of Italy and jam-packed with squid, mussels, prawns and clams? And an aspargus one and one with spicy Italian sausage.
Heck, we could be here all night said my companion who had easily chosen hers – the lobster and prawn variety.
Oh, for heaven’s sake I told myself – if you can’t make up your mind then you should go with your first choice.
The risotto di funghi, please. Yes most definitely.
Now after all that you’re probably waiting for the punchline. Me telling you I’d made the wrong choice. We’ve all got a friend like that – they hum and they haw and then they spend the meal looking longingly at your plate and making you feel guilty.
But no – what a damn good choice it was. And well worth the wait – creamy soft rice with buttery mushrooms and slivers of sweet chestnuts all smothered in Parmesan.
It slipped down easily only interrupted by slurps of Prosecco.
Meanwhile, across the table, the less fussy diner was declaring the lobster and prawn risotto great. “The prawns were nice,” said Alison. “But the prize is the generous amount of lobster – and creamy perfect rice.”
This was definitely festival food.
When in Italy in the past I’ve been to a few “sagras” – the village festivals which usually celebrate food.
I’ve been to the sagra di chingale (wild boar), sagra di fragola (strawberry) and even the fagiolo (bean) sagra. But never a risotto sagra. However, I can tell you now that if they did have one Strada would be booked to cook.
But it’s not all about the risotto (which are all around £9 except the fish ones) of course.
We’d sandwiched our mains between Carpaccio di Manzo (£5.75), thinly sliced cured beef with rocket, lemon, Parmesan shavings and extra virgin olive oil which was fresh, zingy and light and with the right mix of leaves and rocket and a Insalata di Spinachi (£4.95), a salad with spinach, avocado, Parmesan shavings and crispy pancetta made to sing with a lemony dressing.
Then a portion of gelati (vanilla and pistachio, £3.95) an iced nougat semi-freddo (£4.25) topped with crunchy nuts and with a cute little jug which held an espresso shot to pour over it.
The cold semi-freddo quivered as the hot coffee hit it but I had no mercy. And I can prove it here.
You’ve got until the end of the month to get down to Strada and savour the risotto festival.
You’ve been asked once. I won’t ask you twice.
- Telephone: (0118) 939 4861
- Website: www.strada.co.uk
- Address: The Oracle Riverside,