Piccolino

October 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Don’t you just love those glorious few weeks of summer, when you can get reacquainted with your old friend the beer garden?

Previously, I thought the only thing better than a beer garden, was a beer garden with an overhead heater, but Piccolino in Millennium Square have proven me wrong with their heated outdoor terrace.

Despite visiting Piccolino at a random time (late one Wednesday afternoon) their outdoor dining area was so busy I didn’t think we’d be able to get a table. Thankfully, one of the waitresses managed to find us a spare table in the far corner. She explained the heaters in this area hadn’t been turned on yet, but if we got cold we just needed to let her know, and she’d switch them on for us. As it turned out, the terrace was sheltered enough that we could comfortably sit outside without the heaters.

Our waitress brought us a pitcher of water and glasses while we perused the menu. Despite our good intentions with the water, somehow two glasses of Chardonnay ended up on our table (£6.75 each). Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

When it comes to food, you have to give Piccolino credit for the sheer size of their menu. Craving carbs? You’re in luck, because the menu features no less than 20 pasta-based dishes. More of a seafood fan? Take your pick from lobster, crab, mussels, clams, scallops, and sea bass, not to mention a heavenly-sounding shellfish butter. There’s also a good selection of pizza and meat dishes, not to mention a whole section dedicated to beef. Rump, rib eye, sirloin, fillet – or if you fancy splashing out, how about a 35 day aged, bone-in prime rib?

I can’t imagine anyone struggling to find something tempting on this mammoth menu!

Despite all the choice, there was no question what I was going to order – I had to give that shellfish butter a go! This meant ordering the ‘ravioli al granchio’ (£13.50); crab ravioli topped with chilli and basil and, of course, that magical-sounding shellfish butter.

When I gave the waitress my order, she wasted no time informing me I’d only get around four pieces of ravioli, in a way that suggested they’d received some complaints about portion size. But it was too late – I had my heart set on shellfish butter. Anyway, I could always order dessert if I was still hungry, right?

The waitress took our orders, and promptly returned with a small basket of complimentary bread and some olive oil, so we had something to snack on while we waited for our mains. Don’t you just love a freebie?

After demolishing the bread and oil, it was time for our mains, and I have to say Piccolino’s ‘ravioli al granchio’ might just be the prettiest pasta dish I’ve ever laid eyes on!

Piccolino Ravioli al granchi

The crab ravioli tasted every bit as good as it looked, and the flakes of chilli gave it an unexpected prickly heat, which I loved. But my main motivation for ordering the ‘ravioli al granchio’ was that shellfish butter, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was absolutely delicious, and had a really complex flavour that was only intensified by the basil and flakes of chilli that’d been soaking in it. Despite being butter-based, it wasn’t in the least bit greasy and actually had a very light, silky texture which was a pleasant surprise.

I just wished I hadn’t been greedy and wolfed down all that free bread, because the only thing missing from my main was something to wipe up every last morsel of shellfish butter. It was a shame to leave any of it floating in the bottom of the bowl!

True, there was only a handful of ravioli, but they were big pieces generously stuffed with lots of crab meat, so I didn’t feel in the least bit short changed. This is the perfect portion size for lunch or even a light evening meal, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.

Also winging its way to our table was that Italian favourite, beef lasagna (£10.50).

Piccolino lasagna

Lasagna is one of those simple dishes that’s actually really easy to get wrong. Too much cheese, too much sauce, too much pasta, or even too much meat can completely ruin a good lasagna (and I’m speaking as someone who has ruined many a good lasagna!)

Piccolino’s lasagna gets this tricky balance of ingredients just right. The sauce also had a good flavour without being too strong or spicy, and the meat was tender, tasty, and grease-free. Another big thumbs up for the food!

Since we were enjoying the novelty of sitting outside without coats, we decided to make the experience last a little longer and ordered a round of coffees. I ordered a liqueur coffee (£6.25) with Bailey’s because, well, it’s kind of getting close to the Christmas season!

Piccolino liqueur coffee

Piccolino’s liqueur coffee didn’t exactly put me in the festive spirit. I couldn’t really taste any Bailey’s and even the coffee itself was on the weak side. This definitely wasn’t six quid’s worth of liqueur coffee!

At the other end of the table, it was a booze-free caffeine fix, with a more reasonably-priced £2.75 latte. This latte got a more positive response than my boozy alternative, so next time I’ll save my pennies and order my Piccolino coffee alcohol-free.

The liqueur coffee is my only major gripe with my Piccolino’s experience. I loved their heated terrace, and as the days get colder and darker, I can only imagine it becoming even more popular, as sitting outside without freezing becomes a novelty.

The food was delicious, and the menu is massive. The wine is a little on the pricy side, but this is pretty much to be expected when you’re eating out.

If you’re a fan of Italian (and really, who isn’t?) and don’t mind spending a few extra pounds than you would around the corner at, say, Strada or Zizzi’s, then Piccolino is definitely worth a visit – if only to experience their heated outdoor terrace!

three-and-a-half

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The Italian Kitchen

February 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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I walk past the Italian Kitchen at least twice a day, on my way to and from work, and every time I ask myself “why haven’t I eaten there yet?” After a few months of making mental notes to pop into the Italian Kitchen, I finally ended up in the Ecclesall Road restaurant by accident, after spending longer than I’d intended in the Nursery Tavern (whoops), and getting a case of the beer munchies. Nipping across the road and filling up on yummy Italian food seemed like the perfect way to finish off the evening.

Despite it being a rainy, mid-week night, the Italian Kitchen was surprisingly busy. This eatery has a very cosy vibe, with a preference for low lighting and dark furnishings, which is very welcoming – especially on a rainy and windy January night! We scored a window seat, so we could watch the pedestrians getting blown around Ecclesall Road while we settled down with our wine, and perused the menu. The menu is typical for an Italian restaurant; that means pizza, pasta, risotto, and steak. There’s nothing really out of the ordinary here, and the prices are pretty average for this kind of food. So far, so good.

Still hung up on the previous week’s Loch Fyne treat, I couldn’t resist the lure of the fish dishes, and opted for the Linguini Marinara (9.95), which promised a trio of seafood: mussels, prawns, and squid. It pretty much goes without saying that the seafood couldn’t compete with Loch Fyne (which specialises in seafood and is more expensive, after all) but I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of seafood the Italian Kitchen piled onto my plate.

All too often a seafood-pasta dish turns out to be four mussels-in-their-shells, strategically positioned on top of a pile of pasta, with a handful of prawns and calamari rings thrown in (if you’re lucky!) Not so at the Italian Kitchen; every forkful of linguine brought with it a generous helping of seafood. Even when I reached the bottom of my pasta, there was a pile of stray seafood still sitting in the bottom of the bowl. I don’t think I’ve ever been treated to so much seafood in a pasta dish before. Other restaurants, take note!

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The seafood was nicely cooked and not in the least bit rubbery, and it had a hum of garlic going on, although I wouldn’t have minded a hotter kick (a bit of chilli in the tomato sauce would have sealed the deal for me). But overall, a tasty, generous dish that’s filling and good value for money.

Once again, it was all about the seafood, as my dinner date ordered a Marinara Pizza (9.95) of prawns, mussels, and squid, with some garlic to season. The Italian Kitchen didn’t disappoint, delivering a pizza piled high with seafood, which left us debating which was the better option for seafood lovers – pizza, or pasta? If you’re a fish fan, you can’t really go wrong. Pizza or pasta, the Italian Kitchen make sure you get your fill.

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With two seafood-packed meals for just under 20, we reluctantly left the warmth of the Italian Kitchen, for the cold and rain of Eccy Road, feeling like we’d enjoyed a great meal, at a great price. A generous portion of tasty Italian grub at reasonable prices in comfortable surroundings – what’s not to like?

BB’s

November 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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As someone who enjoys both a tipple and a meal out, a restaurant with a BYOB policy is my idea of heaven. While these places may be far and few between, there are a couple in Sheffield, and even one that’s smack bang in the middle of the city centre.

Squeezed between The Old House and Fusion on Devonshire Street, BB’s may look pokey from the outside, but inside it’s a two-storey warren of tables that’s always absolutely buzzing with enthusiastic customers. And, depending on preference for atmosphere, herein lies a possible deal-breaker: BB’s is a noisy, boisterous, knocking-elbows-with-your-neighbour sort of place. If you aren’t seated next to the door, this cosy Italian can get incredibly stuffy, and if you’re seated near one of the many birthday or hen parties that pile into BB’s every Friday and Saturday night, then things can get rowdy.

This was definitely the case when we visited over the weekend. We were seated next to the door, and so got a good idea of the crowd BB’s attracts: basically an endless stream of people clutching wine bottles in one hand and gift-bags/hen party favours in the other. We were actually seated next to one of the hen parties, and halfway through our meal they cracked out the pink whistles and fluffy head boppers (not to mention an inflatable – but the less said about that the better!)

You’ll either see the noise, rowdiness, and flaming Sambuca shots that are dolled out to birthday girls and boys, as part of BB’s charm – or good reason to never, ever frequent the place. Personally, I love the atmosphere but just be aware that if you’re after a peaceful evening, then this place isn’t for you.

One of the great things about BB’s, is that it’s graced with some of the friendliest, most genuine waiters and waitresses you’re ever likely to encounter. Greeting regulars with hugs, and finding the time to get to know non-regulars like us, they’re also very eager to please. At the end of our meal, we inquired about BB’s selection of after-dinner liqueur coffees, only to be assured that they’d whip us up whatever we fancied. This is the sort of fantastic, second-to-none customer service that turns first-time diners into loyal regulars.

But, before the after-dinner drinks came the dinner itself. Seated next to the hen party and with the BYOB wine already flowing, it was time to size up the menu. BB’s menu is all about serving up traditional Italian dishes, but with plenty of variations on these old favourites. There’s a whopping nine variations on steak, six chicken dishes, and all the usual pasta dishes are present and accounted for: spaghetti, lasagna, tagliatelle, gnocchi and penne pasta.

BB’s also has a large selections of hot and cold starters, so we decided to kick off the dining experience with a portion of bruschetta (£6.20) When the starter arrived, I immediately regretted opting to share one plate. The bruschetta dish was two slabs of lightly-toasted bread piled high with heavily-seasoned, juicy beef tomato chunks and fat cubes of gooey cheese.

Maybe a little peppery for some people’s tastes, but as a lover of strong flavours, I found the heavy-handed seasoning absolutely delicious. The bread had absorbed just the right amount of fiery seasoning and tomato juice, turning it a little soft without being at all soggy. The staff offered us oil and balsamic vinegar, but the bruschetta was so good that no further seasoning was necessary. Highly recommended, just don’t make the same mistake I did – be sure to order a portion all to yourself!

Next, was a main meal of Pescatore pizza (£9.00) a mixed seafood pizza, featuring olives and love-them-or-hate-them anchovies. Although the pizza only had a couple of toppings per slice, the focus was on quality rather than quantity: full squid rings, and entire mussels and prawns. The anchovies had been shredded and carefully spread across the pizza, so the taste was never overpowering. In fact, the sharp, tangy anchovies perfectly complimented BB’s choice of cheese. The cooking process had also infused the surrounding pizza with some of the anchovy oil, which was somehow even more delicious than the anchovies themselves.

For myself, it was a Tagliatelle Al Salmone (£8.75) that, after too many dodgy homemade pasta bakes, reminded me just how amazing pasta can actually be.

The tagliatelle ribbons were perfectly cooked and tasted like fresh, homemade pasta. Doused in a surprisingly light cream-based sauce and heaped with fresh coriander, it hardly needed the smoked salmon. This was fortunate, because the salmon in my smoked salmon dish clearly wasn’t smoked, as was stated on the menu. What I ended up with was flakes of cooked salmon and, although tasty enough, it lacked the strength of flavour you get with smoked salmon.

Full marks for the delicious pasta and tasty sauce, but the dish was sorely missing a standout flavour to bring it all together.

Although we hadn’t planned on dessert, the waitress cheekily brought us the dessert menu anyway. On top of the usual pies, chocolate puds and ice creams, BB’s serve fruit sorbets in hollowed out coconut shells, oranges and lemons. Vowing to give these intriguing-sounding desserts a whirl next time, we opted for the aforementioned liqueur coffees.

With the whole bar to choose from, we ordered a Bailey’s coffee and a brandy coffee (£4.00 each) BB’s aren’t stingy with the measures, the brandy coffee in particular contained so much brandy that it completely changed the colour of the drink. My Bailey’s coffee was deceptively coffee-coloured, but still packed a stomach-warming punch. However, this hot brew was oddly finished off with a chilled layer of foamed milk, which made my first sip a bit of a nasty surprise. That minor niggle aside, the liqueur coffees were delicious, piping-hot boozy goodness and the perfect way to end the meal.

Without wine bumping up the bill, BB’s is value for money, and serves up homely Italian cuisine in authentic surroundings. The lively atmosphere (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) makes BB’s feel more like a night out than dinner. A fun, friendly, pocket-friendly evening complete with some very traditional Italian grub.

Same time again next week, BB’s?

El Paso

August 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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El Paso is one of those places I’ve walked past upteen times, but never actually visited. Perhaps that’s due to its less-than-ideal location (at the bottom of the Moor, with a prime view across the current building work) and its shiny red plastic exterior, which is more takeaway than restaurant. But, after a couple of fantastic meals at London Road venues that don’t look much cop from the outside, we decided to give El Paso a whirl, and were very pleasantly surprised.

Behind the tacky exterior lies a cosy, welcoming little venue. We were braced for a worn-around-the-edges sort of place, but instead were greeted by neatly laid out tables, a funky little bar tucked away in the corner and a clear view into the kitchen, which is always a good sign.

And the surprises kept on coming: not only does El Paso have a cocktail menu, but our mojitos (£5.95) could have given snazzier venues like Browns and Mud Crab a run for their money. They were certainly a notch above the mojitos we had at ultra-modern Revolution the previous week – who’d have thought it??

True, they were sweeter than your traditional mojito, but they went down such a storm that we were on our second round before we’d finished weighing up the menu. El Paso has the full range of Mexican and Italian nosh on offer: crespelle dishes, enchiladas, burritos, chimichanga, paella, chilli con carne, lasagna, bolognese, pizza, and seafood dishes, including swordfish for those feeling adventurous. As lovers of both Mexican and Italian, we had a tough time picking just one meal, but finally gave the waiter our orders and, tums rumbling, waited for our grub.

And waited.

And waited.

Despite being one of only two parties in the restaurant, it was a good forty minutes before our food arrived. We could see the chef preparing our meals from scratch in the adjoining kitchen, but forty minutes is longer than anyone should have to wait for their dinner in a next-to-empty restaurant. If you visit El Paso during peak dining hours, make sure you don’t arrive as hungry as we did.

I plumped for the Mexican side of El Paso’s double-whammy Mexican/Italian menu, and ordered a veggie burrito (£8.95). My pair of fat, cheese-slathered burritos were served with a mountain of yellow rice covered with fistfulls of corriander. The coriander gave the rice a freshness I wasn’t expecting, while the burritos were absolutely stuffed with the usual suspects plus something I hadn’t encountered in a veg burrito before: spinach. The spinach not only gave the filling a unique colour, but also a really different flavour, with the fiery spices and cooling cheese completing this flavour-packed dish. Quite simply one of the freshest and most interesting-tasting burritos I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

After the taste sensation of the burrito and herby rice, the side salad was a complete let down. It was as bland as pre-packaged supermarket fare. To make matters worse, the El Paso staff brought us an extra portion of salad to share, which included the bonus prize of a stray piece of cling-film. The bowl it came in was also stained, as though it had been used for serving sauce-based dishes in the past. It may not have been dirty, but this bowl should have been bleached, or thrown out rather than reused as a salad bowl.

Moving on from this salad-related disaster and onto the star of the meal: El Paso’s paella (£10.00). This jaw-dropper was faultlessly presented with decorative shell-on king prawns and a ring of mussel shells arranged around the edge of the plate. A generous sprinkling of herbs, and you’re onto a winner even before you’ve taken a bite.

But what about the taste? The shell-on king prawns didn’t just have the visual wow-factor; they were succulent and perfectly cooked, and the rice was a treasure-trove of seafood: melt-in-the-mouth squid, small prawns and mussel meat, with a little chicken thrown in for good measure. A seafood lover’s paradise.

Our bill came with a few complimentary chocolates, but if El Paso were trying to soften the blow of the bill with sweets, they needn’t have bothered: we’d had our fill of fresh, tasty and high-quality grub for a very reasonable price.

After such a satisfying meal, it’s easy to play down El Paso’s shortcomings – the bland side salad, the less than spotless salad bowl, the missing locks on the ladies’ loo, and the shabby, empty function room you have to walk past on your way to the aforementioned lock-less loo. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes El Paso a rough-around-the-edges find, rather than something really special. Fantastic food, surprisingly good cocktails and reasonable prices – but frustratingly, this place could do better.

Strada

June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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For a meal out in the hustle and bustle of Sheffield’s town centre, it doesn’t get any better than Leopold Square. With fine italian eateries like Zizzi, Popolo and Strada; posh tapas courtesy of Platillos; flaming hot Aagrah curries; and noodles from Wagamama, the only hard part is deciding where to eat.

After ASK whet our appetite with its hit-and-miss italian grub, we settled on another italian restaurant this week; Strada.

Although there’s enough seating for a few bus loads of people inside, Strada maintains a cosy feel with lots of dark wood and intimate booths. We were escorted to one of the corner booths by a polite and friendly waitress and promptly got the party started with a bottle of white wine (expect to pay between £16 and £27) and a bottle of red (prices range from £16 to a whopping £35). The wine list is sorely lacking budget options (something around the £12-£14 range would be ideal) but taste-wise, we had no complaints about our bottles of pinot grigio (£18.50) and merlot (£15.60).

We began our dining experience with a helping of Olive Castelvetrano (that’s green olives to you and me) which were very reasonably priced at £2.50, and a basket of breads (£4.50) with those old italian classics, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

The bread basket and dipping oils were a massive hit at our table. The waitress was even kind enough to leave us full bottles of olive oil and vinegar so we could dip away to our hearts’ content. At other restaurants, we’ve had the staff dole out a strict ration of oil and vinegar, and inevitably you run out of oil before you run out of bread. The variety and quantity of bread was a pleasant surprise; our basket contained the standard white and brown bread, but also olive bread and crispy pane carasau. Easily one of the best “bread and oil” starters we’ve had in an italian restaurant, and the quantity is perfect for sharing as our bread basket could have comfortably served 4-6 people.

At this point, bowls for the waste seafood shells arrived at our table, which made the seafood-lovers amongst us very excited. Any seafood dish that warrants an extra bowl for the shells is always going to be something a little bit special.

Our seafood bounty included a Risotto Frutti Di Mare (£11.75), a risotto of squid, mussels, prawns and clams. Risottos are reliably rich, but the thick sauce means they’re not always the prettiest of dishes. This seafood risotto was different: a light sauce meant it looked every bit as good as it tasted.

Our seafood-fanatic reviewer raved that it was one of the best seafood risottos they’d ever had.

Pasta is another italian staple, so we couldn’t leave without sampling Strada’s pasta. We ordered a Panzerotti Porcini (£9.25), pasta parcels stuffed with a creamy mix of mushrooms, ricotta and provolone cheese and covered in a light broth with a few exotic-looking mushrooms scattered over the top.

Deceptively filling, this dish got another big thumbs up, especially the fragrant broth which was a nice contrast to the earthy mushroom pasta.

Another pasta dish winging its way to our table was the Spaghetti Ragu (£8.95). The beef, onion, red wine, tomato and herb ragu was perfectly seasoned, and came on a mountain of spaghetti. At just under £9, this is a value-for-money meat dish.

But if you’re a seafood-lover, you owe it to yourself to try Strada’s Tegamaccio. It’s at the more expensive end of Strada’s menu, but it’s worth every last penny of the £14.95 price tag. Essentially a posh fish stew, the tegamaccio boasts a lip-smacking selection of clams, mussels, red mullet, squid, prawns and even a shell-on king prawn. The clams, mussels and king prawn all come in their shells, giving the stew a rustic appearance, especially with the hunks of bread perched on the side of your bowl, ready for dipping.

And believe me, you’ll want to dip: the white wine and tomato based soup is heaven. Hearty and satisfying, faultlessly seasoned and packing a real wine zing, I could have drank a bowl of this on its own. In fact, I’d supped half of the soup before I even tried the seafood. When I finally got around to it, the seafood was juicy and tender, even the squid, which is so easy to overcook.

There were a few things that prevented the tegamaccio from being perfection on a plate, and one was the burnt ciabatta bread. Even worse, both pieces of bread arrived with the blackest sides turned face down in the soup, which made me wonder whether the burnt bits had been spotted by the staff. There were also capers in the stew, which kept delivering an unexpected squirt of pickled liquid that didn’t compliment the dish at all. Even with these minor quibbles, Strada’s tegamaccio is one of the best seafood dishes I’ve had the pleasure of devouring.

Miraculously after so much top notch grub, we still had some room left, so we ordered a few reasonably-priced coffees (£2.20 for a latte.) The lattes were smartly presented in neat little glass mugs and white saucers.

For the more boozy members of our party, a shot of after-dinner amaretto (£3.20) was on the cards. Alongside the drinks, we ordered a portion of Strada’s tiramisu (£4.95). For just under a fiver, Strada plates up a doorstop of caffeine-soaked sponge and mascarpone cream drizzled with sticky coffee syrup.

Be warned, this block of cake is not for the faint hearted, and I have no shame in admitting I had to share it with another member of our party. A genuinely indulgent dessert!

If you’re craving something a bit more delicate, the Mousse Al Cioccolato (£5.25) is like a work of an art on a dessert plate. A molded chocolate case filled with fluffy mousse and adorned with a row of fresh strawberries, this dessert is finished off with a dollop of cream, a drop of delicious strawberry coulis and a chocolate filigree. The end result is a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

A fussy, fancy dessert that tastes as good as it looks, thanks to some of the most decadent chocolate you’re likely to come across.

For high street italian food, Strada is a tough one to beat. There were a few niggling problems with my fish stew and the wine is expensive and can really push up your bill if you’re not careful, but overall the food was excellent, and the bread basket starter is highly recommended. Not a cheap evening out, but for the quality of the food, the convenience of the city centre location and the spacious surroundings, this is a top high street italian restaurant.

ASK

June 3, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Remember that heatwave/summer we had last week, before the Curse of the Bank Holiday kicked in and plunged us back into 24-7 drizzle? During one of those rare evenings where you don’t need waterproofs just to go into town, we headed out in search of that old classic: italian grub. Sheffield has no shortage of fine italian restaurants, and in the end we settled on ASK.

Located on Cambridge Street, ASK has some stiff competition from Leopold Square – so how does it stack up against neighbours Zizzi and Strada? Well, unlike the Leopold Square crew, ASK lacks outdoor space, which is only going to be a problem during nice weather. Unfortunately, this was one of the 5 days a year where being outdoors doesn’t require full winter gear. Even though the ASK staff had thrown all the windows open, it was still a few degrees above comfortable inside.

Temperature gripes aside, ASK’s big, gleaming open plan interior has a cafeteria feel to it, that doesn’t set the ‘italian restaurant’ mood. Thankfully, ASK makes up for this when it comes to its eye for detail: the wine comes in stylish, gleaming glass carafes and the water jugs have polo-style hand-holes set into the glass.

Still a little too warm for comfort, we downed glasses of water while examining the menu. ASK serves the usual crowd-pleasing mix of pasta dishes, pizzas and seafood, all mixed up with plenty of those italian staples: cheese, tomato and herbs. We ordered our meals and switched from water to a carafe of white wine (£10.15 for the chardonnay) while we waited for our food to arrive.

First to appear was a helping of risotto gamberoni (£12.45). The risotto sauce was creamy and layered with tomatoes, prawns and refreshing shredded courgette. The courgettes and rings of red chili were perfect additions; the freshness of the courgette and the fiery kick of the chilis prevented the thick sauce from becoming overpowering.

Despite some interesting flavours thanks to the chili and the courgette, I was wondering why a rice dish demanded such a hefty price tag – until I tucked into the single shell-on king prawn that came with the risotto. The king prawn meat was as fresh and tangy as sushi, and cooked to juicy perfection. Although I only managed to scrape a few forkfuls of prawn meat from the shell, the price tag suddenly made sense. If I’d been served a plateful of nothing but those king prawns, I’d have gone home raving about ASK.

Also shipped to our table, was a Stromboli pizza (£8.95) The pizza arrived rustic-style, on a chopping board with an extra helping of chilis, as requested. Despite the sprinkling of chili peppers, the pizza still lacked a kick and there were complaints of it being too salty.

Finally, we were treated to the ravioli marittimo (£10.35). The pasta parcels were jam packed with a creamy mish-mash of seafood: crayfish, crab and salmon, to be precise. Like the rest of our ASK meals, the portion sizes seemed disappointing at first glance, but it’s the sheer richness of the food that leaves you stuffed. Topped with a herby tomato sauce and a few prawns, the ravioli completely finished our reviewer off.

However, we had one major gripe with ASK, and that’s how quickly the food arrived. While speediness is usually a good thing for rumbling tums, it meant we’d ordered and finished our food in under twenty minutes. Paying nearly £13 for a risotto that’s ready in ten minutes leaves you feeling cheated.

To stretch out our evening, we felt compelled to order a round of hot drinks and some puddings. Just like the carafes and quirky water jugs, our lattes (£2.15 each) arrived in style. Served in neat glass mugs with silver handles and white saucers, the presentation was faultless. Meanwhile, the honeycomb cheesecake hit the spot, although at £5.25 it was rather pricey for just one slice.

Our experience at ASK was a bit of a mixed bag. They certainly know their way around seafood, but the prices are a bit on the steep side, especially for food that arrives in under ten minutes. If you want to make an evening out of ASK, be prepared to shell out for plenty of extras. We were left stuffed, but with the nagging feeling that our evening out was over too quickly.

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