What's the draw?
It's fair to say team Foodism likes Lina Stores. Head chef Masha Rener was the star of our last Five Dishes feature, the deli near top of our where to buy the best food gifts article, and the Soho restaurant in our guide of the best places to eat and drink in Soho, and there are plenty of reasons why. Known for their iconic turquoise pastel-striped deli, which first opened on Soho's Brewer Street in 1944, they've been selling panettone, antipasti, fresh pasta and more ever since. Basically, it's your one-stop-shop for the best quality Italian ingredients in London, with everything from your must-have store cupboard essentials to light bites (read: pistachio cannoli) to take away. In an exciting move last year, it expanded to open the first Lina Stores restaurant just down the road, much to London's delight, and now a second site overlooking Coal Drops Yard has joined the family.
What to drink?
In keeping with this year's non-alcoholic aperitif trend, there's a drinks menu crammed with not only delicious Italian wines, beers and cocktails but booze-free alternatives, too. We opt for the No-groni, out of curiosity, a blend of Seedlip Spice 94, Aecorn bitters and Aecorn aromatic. It's every bit as bitter and biting as the alcoholic kind, refreshing to the palate and offering a far more satisfying 0% alternative than sparkling water. Similarly, the Aecorn Bitter and tonic is a complex burst of citrus, grapefruit and bayleaf with a lingering honeycomb touch, adding enough depth to the drink to elevate it to sippable, not quaffable, status. Delightful – and a delight for your head the next morning, too.
What to eat?
For context: I love food but I've never really got pasta. I know. But at the new Lina Stores, Rener really makes me question myself, my pasta preconceptions and my life choices with intricate Italian sharing plates. At points, the food stops you in your tracks and gives you goosebumps in a way that only really, really good pasta (as I now understand) can. To start, the tuna tonnato, one of Rener's signature twists on the classic veal dish, zingy with capers and a tuna and anchovy dressing, and a bowl of what can only be described as anchovy butter turned all the way up, alongside deliciously fresh and crunchy raw seasonal crudités, previews what's to come. Continuing our Italian feast, the sharing plates of punchy crab, scallop, prawn and cherry tomato rondine; a showstopper of agnolotti verdi, silky spinach pasta packed full of creamy ricotta and lascivious black truffle; and moreish porcini and sausage pici, another of Rener's signatures from her hometown of Umbria, hit all the right notes. It's a fanfare of Italian flavours from a chef at the top of her game, and a bloody good meal, too. Go, go, go.
Wine from £4.75 by the glass, small plates from £4. 20 Stable St, Kings Cross, N1C 4DR; linastores.com