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I love businesses that give employees the power to delight the customer: I infuriate my family and friends by pointing these little things out, I watch how the manager treats the staff, how they interact with them and then witnessing how the staff are empowered to solve problems. I don’t even mind things going wrong as long as it is solved well enough!
If you are slightly strange or work in HR like me, then you will appreciate Strada. If HR is not your bag or you are normal, then I am certain you will like it anyway. It is one of the larger restaurant chains now (71 around the UK at last count), and I have tried a few branches, mostly around London (their ‘More London’ location probably has some of the best dining views in the city). In my generous experience with Strada the service has been excellent and the staff all seem very well trained.
Strada’s culture is wonderful news if you like fun, quick service with a few freebies chucked in for good measure. Spend a few bucks and you get a large shot of Italian liquor at the end of your meal. Large parties are sometimes given extra flatbread (Strada does garlic and tomato with pesto options) and olives. If things do go wrong (we are talking about a high street chain after all), then rest assured that you are taken seriously and compensation is generous. All tables are served smartly bottled filtered water, which flows free throughout the meal.
All this may seem that I am a gobby little good-for-nothing who just wants to get something for free. But Strada is a chain that wants you to enjoy yourself. They are still in the stages of making a name for themselves (successfully, I may add) and they are building loyalty. And if all it costs them a few olives and some Sambuca then I can’t see the harm!
Food and Drink
The food is simple, fresh Italian fare. I don’t really think it covers specific regions but the quality is there. The huge pizza bases are crisp and spongy and always cooked well (all Stradas have a traditional pizza oven, hence their tagline “Forno a Legna”). Pasta and risotto choices are plentiful, and range from the staple ragu bolognaise and rich Rigatoni Speck with Gorgonzola, to more adventurous combinations such as pumpkin risotto and other dishes not commonly found on the High Street. The new menu has lots of main dishes such as pork, beef and chicken, and a great selection of salads. The simplicity of the menu and the reasonable prices seem to position Strada as a perfect place to dive into for lunch (helped by the brisk service) but you may want more depth and creativity for an evening meal.There is no kids menu which I think is a big mistake; I have never seen small pizzas but half bowls of risotto and pasta fly out of the kitchen most days.
There is a fantastic wine list and I am proud to say that Strada is one of few chains that serve Gavi; a delicious dry white wine that seems to be a bit elusive around town! The ever-professional Strada staff serves it well too, rather than just plonk it on the table with a couple of smudged glasses. It’s pretty standard beverages everywhere else, the beers are Peroni as you might imagine and the choice of spirits on offer does depend on what branch you go to. A few Stradas have dedicated bar areas too.
Ambience and general je ne sais quoi
Stradas are not intimate restaurants. Usually they are big open rooms, made slightly less so with liberal use of dark reds and darker woods. A few newer branches are using more white to balance this. This is Strada’s biggest wobble as whenever I visit one, I sense a conflict between warm woods and cheap-looking chairs, and an inviting, cosy colour scheme doing battle against a menu better suited to lunch. Confused? I am as well, it is difficult to put into words but something isn’t right.
That being said, Strada is a great chain to try. You get great food - and a lot of it - for the price you pay (there are always offers and discounts on as well). It is easily my favourite Italian restaurant and beats Pizza Express, Prezzo, Zizzi etc into the ground. Go there for the food, stay for the service and try not to look at the walls!
Not the longest review, but length does not always correlate with quality. I thought this was exceptional, and appreciate your quirky HRness :P I've never been to Strada before but I do like people watching (and Italian food), so will give this place another shot. The only time I went was when I was reaaaaally hungry so was in no mood to appreciate the dining experience.
duskmaiden 03.09.2010 00:27
I've hasd mixed experiences wih them/ I like the one near work as we get a discount if I present my work id
ALM1 02.09.2010 13:03
For me, the no kids menu thing is a positive. I much prefer for children to be offered the same choices as adults - just in much smaller portions. Personal preferences aside, this is a really useful review for prospective customers.