Sunday, 28 February 2016

Piccolino - Ilkley, West Yorkshire

The last time I visited Piccolino was on a disastrous date in 2009, the guy turned up in a long leather jacket and pasty white vitamin B deficiency skin, I was almost certain he was a vampire. The meal was long and boring, I couldn't tell you what I ordered and when the bill came to £50 I gladly took up his offer of him paying (I was just fresh out of uni and debt laden after all).

Hop and skip a few years and I never revisited Piccolino, traveling and discovering a food scene in Leeds I never knew existed had shied me away from chains and a left me forgetting about long standing establishments. Piccolino was back on my radar after a sweet tweet from Carlotta the Sales and Events Manager at Piccolino Ilkley, they have a new roof terrace that they wanted me to see. Ilkley is a one of my favourite places to visit on a weekend, if I could afford a house there (that isn't a pokey flat) I'd happily settle there too. I love the moors and I love the quirky town centre, therefore I wasn't going to pass up the chance to for a relaxing Saturday lunch and stroll on the moors afterwards.

The stroll on the moors didn't quite go to plan as the wind and rain were extreme that day. I was slightly concerned by the weather and the fact I was supposed to be sitting out on a roof terrace. However, I needn't have worried about the roof terrace as the ceiling folds over to create shelter with temporary windows in place and plenty of patio heaters and to keep us cosy. The roof terrace has a completely different feel to the restaurant below, it feels more luxurious, slightly more intimate and more city chic than the bright space and wooden furniture that lays downstairs.

The roof terrace has its own bar, grill and pizza oven and with this its own menu separate from the one available downstairs. The roof terrace is also available to book for parties; gatherings etc and a special private dining menu will be laid out for you and your guests. The menu which was available to me is displayed below, I particularly enjoyed the personal message at the bottom, you'll find most of these items on their lunch and a la carte menus too.

Prosecco was served as an aperitif, and if I'm going to be completely honest I was suffering from an almighty hangover this day (it wasn't planned, it just sort of happened by accident...), therefore I was a little uncertain about whether I wanted (or needed) another drink. In fact it helped take the sting out a little and I lapped it down alongside a jug of much needed water.

For starters D decided to choose something light asparagi alla griglia, translated is grilled asparagus with a soft poached egg and herb breadcrumbs.

D loves asparagus, he used to regularly make this dish at home when we first started dating after I taught him how to make flawless poached eggs, however these days he has gown a little tired of it having made it so many times but he's keen to get a taste for how others do it every now and again. He wasn't disappointed with a perfect yolk and tender asparagus. 

I opted for the Calamari Fritti aka fried calamari with roast garlic mayonnaise.

The portion was substantial in size and I could have shared this between two people. It's definitely a key seller for them as I heard several tables around us order a plate. I've had some awful calamari in my time but this was some of the best with crispy batter and a tasteful dip.

For mains D was trying to be a little different by not ordering the steak and instead he opted for the Pizza. Pizza Quattro Salami.

A fantastic example of an Italian pizza it was incredibly thin and crispy with plenty of tomato sauce. Served not on a board, as would first appear, but instead a plate within a board to help keep its temperature.

My main of choice was the Pollo Al Funghi: roast chicken breast, gnocchi, wild mushrooms and garlic cream.

This was a beautiful dish, the skin was crispy with a creamy sauce to play around with and a good mix of mushrooms. My mind has been turned on gnocchi having eaten it before and the experience creating a great aversion to all gnocchi dishes.  My previous experience included a bad batch of bitty tasteless things, on this day these gnocchi were thick and soft. I'd like to think I am now a gnocchi convert.

Keen to give dessert a try too and being slightly tanned by the heaters we decided to cool down by ordering some gelato each. I opted for the white chocolate, caramel and pistachio whereas D opted for the strawberry and white chocolate.

They certainly did the trick in cooling us down (that and we asked for the heater to be turned off), they were beautifully sweet with the pistachio almost tasting almond like. I couldn't finish off my bowl but D was more than happy to lend a hand. 

The service was absolutely brilliant. I felt like I was being welcomed in to someone's home rather than a restaurant, the staff are clearly proud of what they are delivering and I can see why. You may think I experienced a bias in good service as I was invited to dine with them, however I am far too often made to feel awkward and sometimes dare I say unwelcome... the pitfalls of accepting meals in exchange for reviews. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Piccolino to anyone, bad date aside, if you're looking for a special lunch or to host an event or celebration the roof terrace is a jewel to behold.

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