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109-111 Wharfside Street, The Mailbox, Birmingham B1 1XL
0121 643 7279
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The Finest Italian Food Outside Of Italy!
Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
October 25, 2011
Best of IgoUgo
I adore Italian food, so it won't come as much surprise to hear that my favourite restaurant in the whole of Birmingham is an Italian one – Strada to be precise. We Brummies are now lucky enough to have not one but two Strada restaurants in the City ...
I adore Italian food, so it won't come as much surprise to hear that my favourite restaurant in the whole of Birmingham is an Italian one – Strada to be precise. We Brummies are now lucky enough to have not one but two Strada restaurants in the City Centre, but the one I visit most often is situated in the classy Mailbox complex.
Strada Birmingham is part of a country-wide chain of thirty or so restaurants, but what I love about this place is the fact that it still feels like an individual community Italian restaurant. When you first enter you'll be surprised by the sheer space inside the dining area; while there are lots of tables of various sizes, there's still plenty of room between them giving an impression of an open space – an impression compounded by the fact that the ceiling inside Strada is extremely high. This makes for a lovely relaxing place to eat your meal with the light, airy décor adding to the experience.
The menu's are in both Italian and English, with Italian spellings being generally used for the names of the dishes and the descriptions (luckily!) being written in English. For this reason the menu is very easy to understand and should you get confused with anything you can always ask one of the ultra helpful members of staff for advice. The menu in Strada is well laid out so you can tell at a glance what course or type of food you're looking at – even if the only Italian you know is 'pasta' or 'pizza'!
Talking of pizza, Strada are well known for their wonderful hand-stretched wood fired pizzas which are quite literally the best I've ever tasted outside of Italy! I've eaten pizza at Strada on numerous occasions and have never been less than impressed with both the freshness and quality of Italy's favourite dish. The base is without fail crispy, doughy and utterly delicious while they use nothing but the best ingredients to create the topping. I particularly like the 'Speck' pizza; which is smoked mountain ham, Gorgonzola, buffalo tomato, rocket and mozzarella. The flavours of this particular pizza blend in together wonderfully, while the richness of the topping is a gorgeous contrast to the intentionally bland base. Don't be afraid to ask them to substitute one of the toppings for something else as staff at Strada are committed to giving you the best meal possible, for example I detest olives with a passion and have on occasion asked them to swap the olives for extra ham or rocket which has always been done with no messing around or complaints from staff.
Meat and fish is usually grilled, while any veggies you may have with your meal will be steamed or roasted to perfection. When I'm not eating pizza I'll usually opt for a delicious seafood linguine dish which consists of sautéed tiger prawns, mussels, squid and clams dressed in a wonderful garlicky and chilli sauce. The seafood is always cooked beautifully and the delicate nature of the sauce brings out, rather than disguises, the lovely fishy flavours. A word of warning here, if you order this dish (Linguine alla Pescatora) you might be slightly disappointed when you see the portion size as it looks very small compared to some of the other dishes available. However, what it lacks in volume it more than makes up for in taste and because of the richness of the sauce you'll feel that you've eaten much more by the time you've finished!
To be honest, most of the dishes served in Strada look small but everything I've sampled has been filling and absolutely delicious so I really don't mind the smallish portion sizes. If you have an extremely large appetite (ie. most men) I'd recommend ordering one of their wonderful salads to stretch out the meal a bit more – the salads served here are a meal in themselves so if your main course fails to fill you up then the salad definitely will! The mixed salad is probably your best option as the flavours of this won't contradict anything in your main course and you can, of course, choose an authentic Italian dressing to drizzle over your salad.
For dessert, and you really have to have one, there's a fantastic choice of Italian dishes. Their Tiramisu is, quite simply, amazing. It tastes as fresh as anything you can buy in Rome and obviously uses only the best ingredients and traditional cooking methods. I can literally taste the fine espresso coffee and rum in each mouthful and the gorgeous creamy texture really makes this a dessert to remember. You can also choose from a range of sorbets, pannacotta or a wonderful chocolate melting pudding which will practically have you wanting to lick the plate afterwards!
Of course you'll need something to wash down your meal, and wine is the order of the day here. Strada only serves regional Italian wine, along with a very small number of Italian beers. The wine is fantastic and staff know which wine to recommend to compliment whatever meal you've chosen; a bottle can be quite pricey with the cheapest on offer costing around the £15 mark but it's all excellent quality and you're given the chance to sample a small mouthful before making your decision. We usually opt for a nice crisp Chardonnay which is priced at £22 a bottle. Each table is given a complimentary bottle of water and small basket of bread rolls, which is always a nice touch.
When we visit Strada we'll have a two or three course meal with wine and this will cost somewhere in the region of £70. I know this sounds a lot, but you're eating in a lovely atmosphere and can't fault the food or service at all so I honestly don't mind paying this kind of money. A gratuity charge of 12.5% is levied on the bill, but if you feel service hasn't been up to scratch then you're at liberty to pay for your food and not add the tip.
Strada is, in case you haven't already guessed, a fabulous place to eat. It's more upmarket than a lot of restaurants in the area, and because it serves exclusively Italian food there's no compromise really for people who don't eat it. This just adds to the upmarket feeling though as there's no-one popping in for a quick burger or steak and chips, as is the norm in Birmingham City Centre. I've noticed people tend to dress for the occasion of eating here; I'm not saying to get your ballgowns and tuxedos out, but you'll stick out like a sore thumb should you turn up in a tracksuit or even jeans (unless they're designer, of course!). While there's nothing which actually says children aren't allowed, it's very rare to see kiddies dining in Strada and I simply put this down to the fact that it's a very quiet and adult environment and small children would get bored – and wouldn't you be embarrassed for it to be *your* kids' creating the only anti-social type noise in the restaurant?!
The staff in Strada are brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Nothing ever seems too much trouble for them; they're without fail knowledgeable about the food and wine available and are helpful to the extreme. Any questions which the waiting staff can't answer will be referred to one of the chefs who will usually come to the table with his (very good and accurate) advice. The restaurant is kept clean and tidy as staff are continually removing plates and glasses from tables, as well as generally neatening up the dining area. I'd recommend booking a table as although the restaurant is large it can get very busy, particularly at the weekends. However, should you find yourself having to wait for a table a member of staff will seat you in a little nook and offer you a drink while you're waiting.
Access for disabled visitors is absolutely no problem at all. Strada has wide doors and everything is on one level meaning that wheelchairs and anyone with mobility problems can easily get around once inside. The space between tables also makes it easy to manoeuvre should you need to get to the loo or anything.
To find Strada is easy. It's situated inside the Mailbox complex, which is a huge red faced building located on Wharfside Street. This is easily found by entering Birmingham City Centre from any direction and simply following the signs to the Mailbox. You can catch a number of buses from all over Birmingham, most of which will drop you within a five minute walk of the Mailbox, and there's also the option of visiting by train whereby you'd get off at the main New Street Station and walk the five minutes needed to get here. Easy peasy.
109 – 111 Wharfside Street
Tel – 0121 6437279