Alfresco, Cleeve Review

Alfresco makes the most of its rural position with a sparkling glass covered terrace at the front where you can dine in an outside-but-inside scenario even if the weather isn’t the best. There were sheep bleating happily in a nearby field as we strolled in, but we knew that were telling fibs about spring bursting through and decided to take a table inside. The restaurant is rustic and wholly Italian but in an upbeat and modern take, a dove grey colour palette works well with the understated murals and dropped ceiling making it nice and cosy.

There is a huge choice of pasta and pizza dishes, dizzyingly so, as well as steak, fish and chicken, and the waiter had to come back twice before we were able to decide. For the sake of my ever-expanding waistline, I refrained from choosing risotto to start, followed by a pasta dish despite being sorely tempted. For starters we ordered gamberoni, shell-on, tossed in olive oil with roasted garlic and chilli with light herby tomato sauce and house baked bread, and Alfresco’s own recipe chicken liver which is cooked through, with marsala sweet pear conserve and house baked bread.

After all, our main courses turned out to be a simple choice, two from their ‘specials’ list of the day: spinach and ricotta ravioli with sage butter, and seared hake fillet with lemon and herb butter and tenderstem broccoli. Job done we sat back with an excellent glass of nicely chilled Trebbiano, a dry white wine which is a good pair for any Italian dish. The restaurant is obviously very popular (their secret is out) and there was not an empty seat in the house.

Service is fast and efficient and despite the full house there were no delays; our starters arrived looking great. The chicken liver pâté was beautifully served in a small pot sealed with a deep butter crust and was absolutely delicious with the crisp toasted bread; the fat and juicy tiger prawns so large and lushly dripping with tomato sauce, they were a knife and fork job to peel.

We loved our main courses, the large squares of home made spinach and ricotta ravioli, deep in sage butter and topped with ground Parmesan (if requested) was a taste of Italy at its best. The generous portion of hake topped with herb butter was flaky and melted in the mouth; the tenderstem broccoli was done to perfection too. There are side dishes to be had, salads, cheesy truffle chips, grilled Mediterranean vegetables etc., but these two dishes were a meal in themselves. So much so that we had to wave away the pudding menu and settled for a double espresso to finish which I believe is the Italian way!

Jacquie Vowles

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