Long before Lina Stores started churning out delicious small plates of fresh pasta, the name belonged to the Soho delicatessen on Brewer Street, and was (still is!) something of an institution. Original found Lina first opened the doors nearly 75 years ago, stocking the very best Italian ingredients you could find in London.
The restaurant we know and love today takes inspiration from the authentic ingredients stocked in the deli, which goes some way to explaining just how delicious today’s menu is. All the pasta you see is hand-made every day at the 18 Brewer Street deli (as it has been since 1944) using Italian flour and fresh eggs. There’s no cutting corners here.
Lina Stores is split over two floors; upstairs you’ll find countertop-seating, probably more suited to couples or individuals, whilst downstairs in the cosy cave, small tables sit closely alongside each other, but the loud buzzy atmosphere stops you from hearing every word your neighbour says.
The menu is very much designed for sharing – think a couple of starters and then 3 or even 4 plates of pasta between two – hurrah!! Whilst you’re deciding on what to get, we’d recommend grabbing a couple of cocktails – the Pomelo Martini with pink grapefruit, gin and basil is a nice way to kick things off, as is a classic bellini, here served with juicy blood orange.
I never met an arancini I didn’t like, but honestly, these guys were ace. Oozing with taleggio AND gorgonzola with diced mushroom, you’ll eat this sexy little snack in two bites. Big, big fans of the spicy sausage, we also shared a plate of the ‘nduja and ricotta – the perfect balancing act of fiery and cooling, scooped up with shards of cracker.
Onto the star of the show – the PASTA! There wasn’t a dish we didn’t like the sound of, but if we had to choose just one to eat until the end of time, it would be the agnolotti stuffed with black truffle and ricotta. A total delight. But honestly, it was all great. From the spaghetti with fresh dorset crab that took me back to the day we got engaged, to the slightly sweet pumpkin-filled schiaffoni, with a simple butter and sage sauce, scattered with hazelnuts that felt oh-so-autumnal.
This is just the sort of restaurant you want in Soho. Somewhere you can take a group of pals, where you know you’ll get reliably good food, served simply (because the ingredients are so damn good), without pretension, at a decent price, with a great atmosphere. What’s not to love?
Finishing the last drop of gavi and last bite of amarena cherry & almond tart, we reluctantly gave up our seats for the next round of hungry punters, but honestly – I’d have quite happily stayed for another plate of pasta.