“ Address: Moor Lane / Lower Gate / Clitheroe BB7 1BE „
I first went to Piccolino's in Clitheroe a couple of months ago, when the ladies of our family got together for a (clears throat) sophisticated evening of cocktails, food and gossip. The restaurant left such a good impression on me that my other half booked it for our anniversary meal and the surprise came with the comment that 'I'd like to see what the fuss is about'. I was a little concerned that I'd talked it up so much that it couldn't possibly live up to his expectations and that we'd leave disappointed. Fortunately though, this wasn't the case in the slightest. Piccolino's is a chain of restaurants throughout the country, however this review is about the one in Clitheroe, in the picturesque Lancashire hillside and nestled just in front of the much visited castle keep. The restaurant is in contrast to the historical town it calls home; it is modern, bright and very stylishly decorated. There has clearly been no expense spared in the design and presentation of the restaurant, which has wood throughout, making it look clean and chic. As you approach the restaurant, you walk through the patio area that has plenty of chairs and sun umbrellas for al fresco dining. There's even a notice board there that tells you what the weather forecast is so you can decide whether or not to risk it - a nice touch, I thought. When you get to the door, it's opened for you by the day's greeter, usually the manager, who asks whether you'd like to eat straight away or take a seat in the bar. I'd urge you to head to the bar, where there are plenty of comfy chairs and an extensive drinks menu for you to enjoy. The drinks are fairly reasonably priced as well - a carafe of house wine is £12 and a beer around £3. The cocktails are much pricier - between £5 and £8 - although their selection of Bellinis is mouth-watering. The dining area is huge and well laid out so that it can accommodate big groups of people without infringing on those who are there for a romantic meal. The kitchen is in open view - something that I always find reassuring - and it is interesting to watch the chefs at work. The centre piece of the dining area is the pasta kitchen which is glass fronted and from which you can see the chefs as they prepare the fresh pasta on a daily basis. Something else I like about Piccolino's is the fact that it is an up-market restaurant that offers stylish surroundings, but it is in no way at all pretentious. The staff are obviously trained to a very exacting standard. They are welcoming and friendly, but not overly so; they are happy to chat to you, but aware of not being intrusive. Their style is relaxed - in fact the staff wear jeans with their waistcoats - but the attention to detail and etiquette is spot on. So, everything is looking good so far, but what about the real test - the taste test? Well, this is where the restaurant comes into its own I have to say. The food is exceptional; there is no other word for it. The menu is well thought out and the dishes are well executed. You can see a sample menu on their website - www.piccolinorestaurants.co.uk/clitheroe (where you can also book a table and find out about events). When I first went, we had a mixed starter so that we could try a bit of everything. We ordered two between 8 of us and found that there was plenty to go around. There was a selection of Italian ham, melon, bruschetta, olives, stuffed tomatoes and cheese that melted in the mouth. The ingredients used are obviously of the highest possible quality and the chefs take great pride in their presentation. This was replicated in the starter that my other half had this time - king prawn bruschetta. I must admit, I had my reservations - fish on toast? For some reason I just didn't think it sounded right. But how wrong I was! It was only a small portion - one slice of toasted bread, but it was topped with four of the biggest king prawns I've ever seen in my life and smothered with a chilli and lemon olive oil. Honestly my mouth is actually watering just writing about it! The main courses were just as good. Last time I had a slow cooked lamb shank that was served in a rich red wine gravy and I was more than a little disappointed to see that it was no longer on the menu. However I went for a roast chicken with mushrooms, potato gnocchi and garlic butter that was absolutely lovely. You don't get side dishes with the main courses, and they are a rather pricey £3 each, but I haven't felt like I have needed them because the portion you get is on the large side. My other half went for the sirloin steak and it was cooked to absolute perfection and exactly as he'd ordered it. Side dishes include garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes (which are a must), handmade chips and seasonal vegetables. They come in deceptively large bowls and if you do decide that you want one, I strongly recommend that you get a portion between two of you at least. The puddings are a treat for the senses and you really should leave enough room to sample either one of their extensive range of ice creams and sorbets (including passion fruit and blood orange) or one of the tempting traditional desserts that include cheesecake, melt in the middle chocolate pudding and panna cotta. My other half had Tiramisu, which he said was easily the best he'd ever had - praise indeed from someone who doesn't usually eat desserts. The food isn't cheap; our total bill was £70 for two of us, which included drinks and desserts. But I'm very much of the opinion that you get what you pay for - and this couldn't be more the case than at Piccolino's. I really can't recommend this restaurant enough because it offers everything I want - great food, excellent service and very comfortable surroundings. If you are ever in the area, give it a try because I promise you won't be disappointed!