Back in London, I could not resist another visit to my beloved Pasta Plus which could not have provided more of a contrast. This little gem is tucked down by the side of Euston station, in what appear to be unpromising surroundings. The proximity of ‘adult stores’ and massage parlours can be the only reason this family-run restaurant is not packed every lunchtime and evening. This may be changing now, as it was full to bursting the last time I was there. I eat here almost every time I am in the capital, though I always feel I should be trying new places. But the lure of Pasta Plus is hard to resist; it is the culinary equivalent of getting into a hot, deep bath when the rain is falling outside and the wind howling, and you have had a hard day.
To the first-time diner, the restaurant initially appears a little stark and unwelcoming, with an uncluttered interior, no tablecloths (and certainly none of the red check variety) and only a few monochrome photographs on the walls. But every surface is spotless and shining, seats are surprisingly comfortable, and in the summer the tables at the bottom end of the restaurant look down to a tiny garden bright with red geraniums. Now, after countless visits, I see the lights shining out onto the grubby pavement and hurry towards them thankfully. Once I toiled along the road, footsore and grumpy at the end of a particularly irksome day, to find the place was shut; I almost burst into tears on the pavement. (They had gone on holiday, the thoughtless creatures.)
Having pigged out on croissants and toast on the train down, I felt that a reasonably healthy starter was called for, so opted for the tomato bruschetta. The tomatoes were as tomatoey as they can possibly be in November, the crisp, freshly-toasted bread had been rubbed with garlic and liberally dribbled with good olive oil, and the portion was big enough to satisfy a Yorkshirewoman. Having now had a couple of my five-a-day (I was counting the rocket on the bruschetta) I turned to the signature Tagliatelle Zia Teresa with the appetite of the just. I was not disappointed. I have eaten this dish at least a dozen times (possibly more) but I still love the combination of the finely chopped, caramelised onion, tiny slivers of button mushroom and the saltiness of the pancetta, all embraced smoothly by the saffron cream sauce, generously anointing the pile of tagliatelle, topped off with a couple of spoons of grated parmesan. (I considered a healthy side salad but rejected it; it would have been a distraction.)
I confess to never having had a pudding at Pasta Plus. I am convinced that if I had ever eaten one, I would have been happy with it, but unless there is something really sinful on offer, I can usually resist the temptation. This is one reason why I have never looked at their dessert menu: there may well be puddings at PP requiring many hours of penance, and if I were to try one I might then be tempted eternally. So I have always thought it better not to begin. But one day when I have lost all belief in the worth of a waistline, I may well start to order a dessert.
Service was helpful, charming, friendly and efficient. Most evenings the front of house duties are divided between the mother and daughter team, but the last time I visited, both were on hand to supervise the occasionally diffident (but always friendly) young Italian waiters. Dad is in the kitchen and sends up plate after plate of unfailingly consistent food.
With a glass of Prosecco and two of the house wine, and including the service charge, the bill came in at just over thirty quid. Two restaurants in two capital cities within the same fortnight, but what a difference in atmosphere and quality of service. I have only one problem with this little place, as I have said already - I can’t tear myself away as it is a real home from home. One last point to mention – as a lone female diner (often), I always feel welcome here, unlike some much more expensive and pretentious outfits where I have sometimes felt like a carrier of bubonic plague.
Verdict: value for money 8/10 service 9/10 quality of food 9/10