“ Address: Henry Street / Lytham / Lancashire / FY8 5LE / England „
Portofinos is a long established, independent Italian restaurant in Lytham, though despite my devotion to this cuisine, I've only been a couple of times. We went for lunch this week as my mother works in Lytham and I am a lady of leisure with nothing better to do than meet her for some midday grub.
Portofinos has changed since I last went. It's now a welcoming, attractive place though it has only a tiny street front. We arrived just after noon (they open 12pm - 2.30pm for lunch, then again from 5.30pm) and two members of staff jumped into life, welcoming us and offering to take our coats. We were their first diners of the day but rather than being asked where we wanted to sit (always a bit awkward if you bother to try to weigh up the options), we were shown to a table and asked if it would be ok. It was more than ok - it was against one wall which meant one side was banquet seating. My biggest regret was that I wasn't born in the land of American diners, such is my love of booth style seating, and this was a pretty decent alternative.
The new decor of Portofinos is nice. It is bright and airy, and has a modern Mediterranean feel to it. The floors are tiled, the tables and chairs bistro-style, and the walls adorned with Picasso prints among others. There is a semi-open kitchen in one corner, and both a regular bar and sort of wine cellar on the other side, both of which added to the character. The tables were pre-set with wine glasses, square plates and good quality disposable serviettes (the sort of paper/linen hybrid ones) , and there were fresh flowers in the vases on each table too.
We were brought the main menu and, after a while (during which time we'd already decided what to have), the set menu too. The 2-course and 3-course set options offer good value for money, but the choices are limited and there's only one (boring) vegetarian main on offer. The proper menu is better, with a wide range of antipasti, pizzas, pastas and meat, with vegetarian and nut-containing dishes clearly marked.
The drinks arrived and I was pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the diet coke. Partly due to this and partly due to the not too long wait for food to arrive, it easily lasted through the meal. what I didn't realise at the time (as soft drinks are not shown on the menu) was how I was paying through the nose for it - to me £2.45 for a soft drink is extortionate, and not just because I've been having 4000 Leone (60p) diet cokes in the back of beyond of Africa for the last few months.
The food arrived and was nicely presented, especially the pasta which was all arty and modern on the plate, heaped up in a mound in the centre. My mother had the Spaghetti Siciliana, a lovely combination of tomato, aubergine, goats' cheese and olives. This is not a dish for those on a new year diet - it was topped with chunky rounds of the cheese, and drenched in oil as things often are in this restaurant - but it was deliciously, not overpoweringly, rich and tasty. This was just one of the unusual pasta dishes that made me choose this place (even if I did then opt for pizza) - they have a selection that's just a little wider than many other places locally.
I ordered the Alpino pizza which was topped with goats' cheese and roasted peppers. I liked the look of it immediately, from the long strips of red and green peppers to the slightly misshapen pizza base (always a good sign that it's made fresh and by hand). It didn't have masses of goats' cheese on (so I stole some from the pasta) but was yummy. The pizza base in particular was wonderfully light and airy, and thin but not nastily crispy. The flavours worked well together and I didn't need anything else with it.
We were offered parmesan but not black pepper. Though there were individual mills on the table, it did make me wonder why they had one of those nice tall ones over by the kitchen (unless just for display)?
Throughout the meal the service was subtle but I had no doubt we could have caught someone's eye had we needed anything. Plates were cleared a few minutes after eating, and puddings offered but with no pressure (or that presumptuous issuing of the dessert menu).
I went to the loos, at the back of the restaurant near the kitchen, but almost wished I hadn't as they let the place down. There were several cubicles in the ladies, one of which was disabled, but two were marked staff only (either staff loos or storage - hard to tell). The first loo I went into had a stained and grotty toilet seat so, having the place to myself, I went into another. This one was ok but the toilet paper dispenser was broken, so the rolls were just piled up on top of the cistern. They have tried to carry on the image of the place in the loos (nice full length mirror, fancy soaps and moisturiser, basket of folded hand towels) but the toilets themself let it down. The only thing that perked me back up was an unusual sign just outside saying the management reserved the right to search you or your bags for drugs without warning.
The bill came to just under £25. Main courses are in the region of £7 to £20, most about £10 . It seemed a little more than expected for lunch for two but that might just be because I'm so used to 2-for-1 deals in chains. The quality of the food and atmosphere of the setting here are lovely, so I don't begrudge paying, but I had thought it would be more like £20 - which it would have been if it weren't for the drinks.
Portofinos gets very busy in the evenings and at weekends, almost giving it two different characters - a chilled place for a lazy, laid back lunch, and a bustling, loud party place at night (with or without the help of illegal substances). I wouldn't go every week, because for me this is a more special treat than some other eateries in this area, but if I were to stay in the country long enough I'd certainly go back and try some of the other interesting sounding dishes on the menu.
More contact details and menus for here and their sister restaurants are available online.
What: Portofino's is a Mediterranean restaurant in the centre of Lytham. It is open 12pm -2.30pm & 6pm -11pm everyday except Sundays, when it is open 12pm - 9pm.
Where: It is situated on Henry Street, Lytham, Lancashire, FY8 5LE. Tel: 01253 795890.
I have been to Portofino's twice now, and both times I was very impressed with the food. It offers a huge range of mostly Italian dishes, and as a vegetarian I was surprised to find such a wide range of pasta and pizza options. Last time I went I had the Tortellini alla crema, (a Spinach and ricotta tortellini) - it was yummy and a generously sized portion. Main courses range between £8-19.95, although most are around the £9 mark, which I think is great value for money considering the quality. There is loads of choice in starters - and 4 different kinds of garlic bread! Desserts are a little expensive but yum all the same - I had a delicious selection of strawberries and ice cream.
The atmosphere is always very pleasant; it tends to be mostly Lytham locals out for people's birthdays or for a special treat, as it is one of the more up market eateries in the area and is often busy (so be sure to book in advance). The décor is beautiful - very clean cut and modern, and the lighting creates a really nice atmosphere in the place, there are two floors and an open plan kitchen.
Overall I was impressed with the service, despite some mistakes (see below) the staff are always friendly and they serve you quickly.
One of the main gripes I have with Portofino's is their service when it comes to paying. Both times I have been they have got the bill wrong, first they mixed us up with another table, and the other time, if we hadn't have checked the bill properly we would have ended up paying for a £30 bottle of wine which we hadn't had. Although I might have just been unlucky, I would strongly recommend checking your bill before paying.
This is pretty trivial but it annoys me that for some unknown reason, if you are seated in the upstairs part of the restaurant you can't order pizza! Last time I went they had no record of our reservation so had to stick us upstairs rather than down, and although none of us wanted pizza, it would have been nice to have the option, and it seems like such an odd rule!
Overall: A nice Italian restaurant that is reasonably priced and offers a range of tasty dishes. I wouldn't recommend it to young families but for a romantic meal or special occasion it is perfect. On the downside the service is pretty incompetent at times, although the staff are always friendly!