Spontaneous dining; not something Elldrew do often; mostly because our choice of restaurants require planning and booking well in advance, however every so often, when the moons align, spontaneity can be a good thing. This was apparent on a recent outing to trendy Clerkenwell to watch a friend’s live gig. Without a booking, specific craving or destination in mind we strolled out of Old Street tube, eyes peeled for a cheap eat, stumbling across L’Artigiano pasta bar.
L’Artigiano is a new edition set at the quieter end of Old Street, right by another Elldrew favourite Arancini Brothers. This end of Old Street seems to be getting a bit of a revival, which is a positive thing, but it still has its fair share of take-away shops, and looking like one we nearly walked straight past it in our search of seated dining. Curiosity lead us to walk in and check out the food, for which we noticed a dining area hidden at the back.
This one branch restaurant – we say that as we can see it expanding – offers good value fast, fresh pasta (in 90 seconds to be precise) with your choice of sauce and topping. They also provide a small selection of other hot foods, salads, and a simple breakfast menu. On entry, laid before us in rustic wooden trays, the day’s fresh homemade pastas. On the back wall a chalkboard lists prices for your selection of pasta. Also, a bain-marie with a handful of pre-baked pasta dishes. It all looked great so we decided on a tagliatelle carbonara each and (for the sake of a fair review!) a delicious looking baked aubergine parmigiana to share.
We headed down a couple of stairs to the small but comfortable “dining” room, with its retro wall of chalkboard cut-outs full of handwritten comments or positive affirmations from previous diners. Smiling at the light covers, actual cheese graters, and noticing the colander light shades over the kitchen, our food arrived pronto. You just can’t beat fresh pasta cooked perfectly al dente. Impressed, even if the sauce and parmigiana was a tiny bit under seasoned (such is the current trend for holding back excess salt), with a twist of rock salt and ground pepper our dishes were spot on.
At under £20 for the 3 dishes plus a bottled water and can of San Pellegrino (they don’t have a liquor license), dinner was a delicious, tasty bargain. We found a big jug of help-yourself water available in the dining area, so you could save a bit more and not order drinks, so we know L’Artigiano must do well with the local lunch trade.
We see this being a Franco Manco type restaurant, popping up around London offering quality food at exceptional prices; if L’Artigiano were a little bit closer to home we think we’d be regulars, but it’s probably a blessing for the waistline that it is that bit too far away!
38 Old Street, London, EC1V 9AE