The high street contender serves up reliably tasty pizzas in a prime riverside location
When it comes to high street pizza, the ubiquitous Pizza Express has done its best to corner the market. With 400 restaurants in the UK alone, the black and white stripes can be found on every major high street, with stablemates Zizzi and ASK (they all come under the umbrella of Gondola Holdings) mopping up any stray customers. Tricky then for another contender to operate in such a crowded market, but Strada has managed to carve its own niche nonetheless.
Marketing itself as an Italian restaurant rather than an out and out pizzeria, Strada has been fighting its corner since 1999, when the first branch opened in Battersea Rise. While the menu is extensive, serving up various risottos, fish and meat dishes, we were interested to see how the pizzas measured up, and popped into the ever-popular South Bank branch to investigate.
Strada cooks its pizzas in a traditional wood-fired oven, and the resulting crusts come closer to the scorched, bubbled finish often lacking from high street competitors. This pleasing, thin-base effect was sadly lacking from the Napoletana Schiacciatella pizza bread we shared as a starter, although the olives, anchovies and capers were suitably lively.
The pizzas themselves were surprisingly juicy and flavoursome for high street fare. Over-salting is an accusation frequently levelled at Pizza Express, but Strada served up pizzas that tasted fresh and light across the board. Liberal use of basil certainly contributed on that score, and the passata was pleasingly delicate, if lacking the kind of heft you’d find in the best independent pizzerias.
The Rossa was as punchy as you’d expect from a combination of salame and chilli, although red peppers and caramelised onion added a welcome sweetness. The Rustica was similarly well-balanced, despite the presence of some anaemic Italian sausage, while the Bufala offered a welcome alternative to the conventional Margherita, with the addition of fresh plum tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella.
While falling short of the standard set by superior, Italian-operated independents like Santa Maria and Sartori, Strada’s pizzas are still extremely tasty, and can boast a crust superior to those found elsewhere on the high street. If you’re looking for the genuine article, there are better (and cheaper) options available, but in the market it’s operating in, Strada more than holds its own.
1 Napoletana Schiacciatella
1 Pinot Grigio (175ml)
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