Wednesday, 5 October 2011

PastaPot, Cardiff

Pasta Pot opened for business today on Guildhall Place, near the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I was one of their first customers.

The first thing that strikes you about PastaPot is the bright and distinctive colours. This is the first food venture for the three owners, but it’s obviously branded with an eye to a franchise.

This is very much a take-away; with very little space for eating-in (three stools and a counter shared with the cutlery, sugar etc). Meals are served to go in waxed cardboard boxes. I’m not sure how often I’ll be using PastaPot (the street furniture along St Mary Street looks less attractive in the autumn rain); pasta is a less versatile on-the-move fast-food than a baguette (and potentially messier). Customers will probably be from local offices, although it should be popular with crowds heading for the nearby Millennium Stadium.

The main focus is on build-your-own pasta meals. There are three pasta shapes to choose from: penne (tubes), conchiglie (shells) and spaghetti (strings); then a choice of sauces, and then a choice of toppings. The pasta is genuine Italian: sourced from De Cecco. There is no Jamie’s style in-house pasta maker, but co-owner James wasn’t ruling it out as an option long-term.

I must admit, I am not a fan of the Subway approach, where you decide on a staple (bread type, pasta shape), then the filling and then the garnish. Mathematically it suggests infinite choice, but you always end up with basically the same thing. I much prefer a creative cook to do the thinking and to come up with something a little different. This does not happen at Subway, but Cardiff independents (e.g., Fresh baguette bar) are generally good at this sort of thing.

Luckily for lazy people like me, Paul the chef at PastaPot has come up with interesting ready-made favourite options and he’ll be doing daily specials. I went for today’s special, the Cheesy Green Nutter (a reference to the green men who have been running around promoting the place). It consisted of penne pasta, with roquefort cheese, fresh asparagus, pine nuts, fresh basil & cracked pepper, and it was good. Today’s soup special was sweet potato and roasted red pepper.

The hotpot sauce choices include arabbiata, bolognese, carbonara and pesto. I would suggest going for the larger pot (£3.95 cf. £3.50) and arming yourself with a plastic spoon rather than a fork if your option has pine nuts and suchlike. Don’t forget to pick up a 10% off loyalty card.

There are different coldpot selections for building your own pasta salad. There's also fruit on the counter. In fact, the food in PastaPot all looks very healthy. Pot Noodle it’s not.

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