The blurb

All day fresh pasta places from British chef Stevie Parle. We use top-notch British and Italian produce to create delicious, great value fresh pasta plates carefully made on-site every day by our devoted team of pastai.

We don’t take reservations and use a virtual queue system when the restaurant is full.  If there’s no table available when you arrive then leave us your details and go for a quick drink and we’ll text when your table is ready.

Please note that during the evening we only seat tables in-full or allocate a group to the queue when all guests are present.’

The style

I guess it’s bad luck that brings us to the Westfield branch of Pastaio (other branches are in Soho and Market Hall in Oxford Street). I know the gargantuan temple of Mammon is heaven on earth to many a West Londoner (and indeed several of my esteemed WLL colleagues), but to me, it’s closer to hell and I have managed thus far to avoid it.

It takes about 20 minutes to negotiate our way through the freezing Titanic thing, past endless, echoing, draughty parades of excess (even a car showroom FFS), eyes on stalks in increasing disbelief at the sheer nauseating scale of it, past endless middle-high end restaurant chains (Oaxaca, Byron Burgers, the Real Greek, Dirty Vegan – all empty, which seems to validate our question ‘why would anybody choose to go out to dinner in a shopping centre?’), until at long last, having asked at least four different security guards for directions, we stumble on our quarry.

And guess what? On a Monday night in February, it’s absolutely packed, with a buzzing, happy atmosphere, achingly on-trend background music (you can download its Spotify playlist from the website) and a funky, modern interior. One wall has a multi-coloured geometric mural, a bit Mondrian, another’s adorned with neon pink signage spelling out ‘LOVE PASTAIO.’

We’re seated at a long, slightly cramped, refectory-style table lined with industrial-looking stoppered bottles (doubtless recycled) of tap water and served immediately by an extremely friendly hipster chap with requisite face fuzz, tattoos and one of those faintly sick-making earrings that stretches a big hole in your earlobe.

The crowd

Where have they all come from, these chirpy chattering millennials with their bright eyes, healthy complexions and plenty to discuss in myriad languages? They seem a jolly-ish bunch, maybe some students, a large group of Chinese to our left, to our right a couple of terribly well-spoken girls who can’t have been long out of school. Further down the table, what looks like a mother/daughter (possibly grandmother/granddaughter) pair.  Anyway, Pastaio is clearly doing something right as its upbeat, zeitgeisty buzz couldn’t be a more striking contrast to its legions of mournful, desolate competitors.

The food

And what it’s doing right (aside from ticking all the current modish boxes) is, largely, the food. The menu (there’s a vegan and gluten-free one on offer, natch) is short and succinct, one sheet of recycled paper, divided into antipasti, pasta and desserts. All the pasta is home-made on-site, all the ingredients impeccably chosen and sourced.

My starter of ‘beef carpaccio, 30 month Parmesan, Pastaio 2019 olive oil’ (£9) is melt-in-the-mouth tender, delicately marbled, thin, translucent slices of tasty ruby-red beef, slivers of tangy, mature cheese, fruity olive oil: sublime.

Andy’s ‘shaved fennel & blood orange, flat-leaf parsley, pomegranate & Taggiasca olives’ (£8) is zesty, vibrant, a perfect light choice before his ‘8-hour beef & porcini bolognese, tagliatelle’ (£14), an extremely generous portion of rich, meaty ragu, deeply flavoured – although his one criticism is that he can’t taste the porcini.

My ‘vongole linguine, garlic, chilli, capers & anchovies’ (£16.50) is pretty much my desert island pasta dish, and here it’s done perfectly, silky al dente pasta, sweet, toothsome clams, a wonderful sea-fresh salinity. I clean my plate.

Andy’s notes on his tiramisu (£6) say ‘classic, no-frills but delicious’, which pretty much says it all; though my ‘almond & pear tart, creme fraiche’ (£7) takes things up a notch – light buttery pastry, slightly fudgy ground almonds, sweet pear, served warm. Really very yummy indeed.

From today to the 24th February Pastaio is offering a special Valentine’s Day meal, sweetly inspired by Disney classic The Lady & The Tramp – a sharing bowl (for 2 or 3) of spaghetti with slow-cooked tomato sauce (San Marzano tomatoes) and meatballs made with pork, beef, veal, chicken livers & sage (£30). I imagine it’s just as a delicious as everything else on offer – though I wouldn’t fancy my chances trying to slurp my way through a shared bowl of pasta in the close confines of the tightly packed refectory table.

The drink

Drinks are listed on the same sheet of paper as the food, divided into Sparkling (#ProseccoSlushy), Cocktails (a short list, including, of course, Aperol Spritz and Negroni), five whites and five reds. We go for our habitual bottle of Pinot Grigio (£30) but feel somewhat in the minority as all around us the fresh-faced millennials are sticking to tap water. And maybe this is one of the keys to Pastaio’s (pretty much instant) success – if not bumping the price up with booze it’s perfectly possible to have an extremely good three-course meal here for around £25 a head, under a tenner if you choose carefully and stick to one course. And the youthful, vibrant surroundings really are very agreeable – by the end of our meal I had almost forgotten we were in the monolithic hellhole of Westfield.

The details

Unit 1032, Lower Southern Terrace, Ariel Way, Westfield, London, W12 7GA;;

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