It seemed obvious that Lina Stores should one day extend past the deli and open a restaurant. They had the basics already in place for a very good restaurant in that no great restaurant ever started with bang average ingredients. Step into the Brewer Street deli and you’ll find the most virgin of pungent oils, balsamic as dark as the Batman production, and honking great cuts of animal cured with methods dating back centuries. There is dried pasta for simple suppers and filled pasta, hand-rolled on site, for those who know this to be one of the best things for a tourist to leave London with. There is wine to go with this, or pre-batched cocktails if you like. It’s a food lovers haven, so ready to go since 1944 they could have installed a microwave in the corner and people would have still flocked.
They have a restaurant now – several, I think — in what is likely a sign of external investment. I’m at the Soho one, on Greek Street, conveniently between the deli and Bar Termini. We bag a table at the bar, twelve stools in a room clinically laid out and decorated toothpaste mint green. A menu short and appealing: a solid wine list but letting Termini handle the apertivo. Two arancini, good in texture. One with Tallegio and Mostardo, the other with, well I can’t remember already.
If a restaurant lives or dies on the quality of its pasta then Lina have a bounty on their heads. It’s good, but I feel not quite good enough. There is a blasé feel to the dishes that you wouldn’t see in better venues; the fat strands of pasta with fennel sausage have clumped together like Tories at a garden party, and there is simply not enough sauce to coat it all. Compare that to the dish of prawns next to me and the toothsome bits of pasta are bobbing in a pasta sauce like it’s ramen. Filled pasta with pumpkin, spiked with, I think amaretti biscuits, with hazelnuts and a sage butter sauce that has coagulated on the plate. No desserts, a wine from the bottom end of the list and a bill of I think circa £70 (I was being treated and didn’t see it). I’ll stick to buying the produce at their deli around the corner in future. Yes, the pasta is handmade, but then so are your mothers knitted cardigans. The fit isn’t always right.