“ Address: 36 Main Street / Mid Calder / Livingston / EH53 0AW / Tel: 01506 885 138 „
Having decided to go out for a meal on Saturday the only problem was choosing where to go in the gourmetical desert that is Livingston. So we didn't. We travelled the mile along the road to the old village of Mid Calder, not so much a village now as a suburban sprawl that is indistinguishable from the new town it is attached to. Apart, that is, from the original few streets that make up the heart of the village and this is where the villages's pubs and restaurants are located. One of these pubs is the Mid Calder Inn (Tap Shop) and part of this pub, located to the rear, is La Vita Italian Restaurant.
It's not a huge restaurant but as we only needed a table for two, this wasn't really an issue. At a guess, I'd say they could seat around 50 diners although they do have a function suite for larger parties and there are tables outside for that al fresco experience - not something we gave a moments thought to on a wet and windy evening in sunny Scozia. As the restaurant is part of the pub, it's possible to have a pre-dinner drink before wandering through to the restaurant without getting wet. Incidentally, the restaurant is wheelchair friendly.
We booked our table for 7pm and this turned out to be a wise move as by the time we were seated and were half-way through reading the menu, there were only a couple of tables free, and these filled up shortly afterwards.
The menu is extensive. Very extensive. I couldn't possibly list it here (which you'll be pleased to hear) but suffice to say there are over twenty antipasti, more than twenty meat dishes, exactly twenty pasta dishes, a baker's dozen of different pizzas, a few risottos and a dozen specials. Phew!
I know what you're thinking..._'With so many dishes on offer, it probably all comes boil-in-the-bag (not the pizzas obviously, that would be ridiculous...and soggy)'_. Well, that's exactly what we thought but when I phoned them to book, I asked about one of the meals. it came with a cream and mushroom sauce but Mrs p is allergic to mushrooms and this was the dish she had her eye on. 'No problem,' the friendly voice on the end of the phone said, 'all our dishes are freshly prepared so if'n you don't want mushrooms, just let the waiter know and you won't get them. In fact,' she continued, 'if you want anything added or taken out of any dish, just let us know and we can sort it out.'
So. We arrived bang on seven and were promptly shown to our table. Down both sides are tables for four (which can obviously be pushed together for larger groups) with the tables for two down the middle. One criticism I have is that the tables were just a little tightly packed but it wasn't a major issue.
The decor isn't exactly authentic Tuscany. In fact it doesn't have much of an Italian feel at all but we weren't there for the scenery although I do think a lick of paint and some subtle lighting could improve the ambience.
At the far end of the restaurant is the open kitchen which meant we could watch the chefs sweating over our meals (not literally I hope). At least I could - Mrs p had her back to it.
Service was very quick and a menu was presented to us in no time at all although there was no rush to hurry us in making our choices. We were asked if we wanted a drink while we perused though - which was appreciated.
As I said the choice is extensive but we had checked the menu previously and had a pretty good idea of what we wanted. Starters don't vary much in price at around the £5 mark although Mrs p had the minestrone soup which came in at a reasonable £2.80...and very good it was too. No big stupid bowl that would feed a family for a week and put you off your main, just a nice sized portion that whetted the appetite. I had home-made chicken liver pate which was bursting with flavour and accompanied by lightly toasted crusty bread and a crunchy pepper and lettuce salad.
The starters were served very quickly after ordering which I think is a good thing as, let's face it, you wouldn't be dining out if'n you weren't hungry so you don't want to be sitting an age waiting for something to nibble on.
The period between starter and main was a little longer but not too long. Enough time to relax, have some conversation and anticipate the next course. Short enough that you don't lose interest, but long enough that you know the food is actually being cooked and not just pinged.
For our mains, Mrs p changed her mind from her first choice of veal in mushroom and cream sauce (minus the mushrooms) and instead went for the vitello limone - veal in a lemon sauce. Chips and salad are included in the price (a very reasonable £9.20) but side orders of veg and various salads are also available for a coupla quid. I opted for the grilled dover sole in a white wine and lemon sauce topped with prawns and mussels - the most expensive dish on the menu at a paltry £14.90. Jeezo, the fillet rossini was only £14.50!
Mrs p's meal consisted of three escallopes of veal in a thick lemon sauce (chips and salad came on separate plates). Of the three escallopes, two were cooked to perfection and were melt-in-the-mouth tender. One was a little tougher but still nice. The chips were of the frozen variety but were still pretty good and the salad was fresh and nicely presented.
My sole was beautifully grilled and, although served on the bone, all the unappetizing bits like tail, fins and eyes had been removed before being smothered in lemon slices, topped with some beautifully succulent mussels and disappointingly small prawns. Was it good? Well all that was left on my plate were a few slices of lemon (who eats that?) some mussel shells and a scrawny fish skeleton with so little flesh remaining that even Top Cat would never have had it anywhere near his dustbin lid/plate.
This was washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio - light, crisp and dry. Very nice and an absolute steal at £14.50.
As for dessert, we didn't bother. To tell the truth, we were well sated by then and couldn't even manage a wafer-thin mint. Well that's not strictly true. Although the portions were generous, we did not feel in any way bloated. More a 'just had exactly the right amount to eat' kinda thing.
The dessert menu was also extensive but it was reminiscent of those desserts you get straight from the freezer in Spain's costa-land - half a coconut shell stuffed with ice cream etc., although there were also two or three home-made ones available.
Throughout our meal, the service was attentive but very unobtrusive - just a casual 'everything OK?' in the passing. The staff were friendly and efficient and this was no mean feat as they were extremely busy.
All in all a very pleasant and tasty dining experience at a total cost of £50. Not bad.
In conclusion: A good night out. Excellent food and wine, friendly service and at a price that seemed far too low for what we had. A little effort on the decor and this would be a 10 out of 10. As it is, I can only give it 9.5.
We'll certainly be back.