Restaurant review: Strada at The OracleBy Sarah Hamilton
September 15, 2011
People lead such fast-paced lives.
Chain restaurants sometimes reflect this with fleeting concern for their diners, uninventive menus and underestimating the importance of providing an unforgettable guest experience, a shame when customers don’t have as many pennies to eat out as often these days.
That’s why I was really pleased to visit Strada at The Oracle Riverside, which knocks those concerns in a cocked hat.
Friendly-without-being-annoying waitress Lena took custody of us – she knew her stuff when queries arose over food and wine – and charming duty manager Stuart was also welcoming and chatty.
We started with some nibbles – mouthwatering Sicilian olives and oven-roasted Italian sausage cooked in white wine, so flavoursome. These assaggi, or classic Italian tasters, were £2.50 each.
Others included salted anchovy fillets in oil, piquante red chilli peppers stuffed with ricotta and vegetable tartare with Sardinian crispbread.
On to the antipasto and my dinner guest plumped for garlic-rubbed ciabatta with a caramelised pepper and onion peperonata, crumbled goat’s cheese and basil (£4.95), all totally moreish.
I went for clam and fregola pasta grain soup with a choice of bread (£4.95).
I was slightly concerned it would be a heavy start to the meal but the dish was actually light and the wine, chilli and parsley provided wonderful flavours. Diners could choose the accompanying bread and I enjoyed wholemeal sourdough.
Breaded beef and tomato ragu risotto balls, lemon butter king prawns and creamy garlic mushrooms on grilled polenta were other options.
Now for the mains. Interesting choices abounded in risotto, pasta, pizza, fish, meat and salads. The pumpkin, butternut squash, pancetta and spinach risotto (£10.25) sounded homely as did the rigatoni of Lombardian cheeses, gorgonzola and Grana Padano, smoked ham and rocket (£9.75).
I went for the grand sounding strozzapreti pugliese (£9.95), which was pasta with Luganica sausage, cured pancetta and broccoli, finished with red chilli butter and Grana Padano.
The robust meaty flavours were deliciously smokey and complemented the chilli butter.
My guest went for the tagliolini nero granchio (£11.75), black cuttlefish ink pasta with crab, courgette, red and yellow peppers, spring onion, chilli and parsley.
It was a good-looking dish, the black pasta with the vibrant vegetables and a clean plate remained but I thought it was quite bland-tasting – perhaps something chilli-phobes would like.
Fish fans could tuck in to dishes including Parma ham-wrapped salmon on lentils and sea bass on basil mash. There were also steaks, roast lamb with rosemary and anchovy and lemon zest-breadcrumbed chicken among the meat options.
Had I refrained from a starter I would have also ordered a couple of hot sides such as courgette fritters or roast aubergine (£2.95 each).
If you’re watching your waistline, Strada helpfully indicates on its menu the ‘lighter options’ of 600 calories or less. We weren’t particularly, so steamed ahead to order pudding.
Williams Pear sorbet, baked mascarpone cheesecake and iced nougat semi-freddo battled for our attention but in the end I chose a scoop each of espresso croccante and pistachio ice cream (£3.95) – totally delish – while t’other half chose cheese and Sardinian crispbread; Grana Padano, gorgonzola dolce and goats’ cheese with date, fig and balsamic chutney, all generously portioned.
Strada has some very satisfying wines to discover and we chose a couple of glasses of the Sicilian Fiano (£4.70) although I would like to return to sample others intriguingly described as having flavours of hazelnuts, ginger and lime sherbet.
Reading has its fair share of Italian restaurants but Strada is among those that convince at being more ‘real’ and authentic, like mama used to make, rather than predictable chain restaurant fare.
It feels Strada is making an effort to differentiate and the competitive pricing is also a bonus.
- Telephone: 0118 939 4861
- Website: www.strada.co.uk
- Address: Strada
20 The Riverside,
The Oracle shopping centre,
Reading RG1 2AG