THE best kind of gatherings are the impromptu ones - the ones organised at the last minute and, in this case, held to celebrate the end of a somewhat taxing week.
We ended up at 30, Glumangate - home of Calabria - by accident, the place where we normally eat being unexpectedly closed.
In a street of cobbles and traditional shop fronts Calabria nestles, perfectly placed, its frontage smart and chic but welcoming, its plate-glass windows giving a glimpse of the interior - already buzzing with diners even though the clock had barely struck midday.
The immediate impression once inside was one of easy-going friendliness in a modern setting and a vibrant atmosphere.
The clientele was a mix of shoppers, tourists and business people. Unpretentious, relaxed.
Everywhere there are mirrors making the most of all the light available and the overall ‘look’ is stylish, contemporary - and it is anything but intimidating.
Indeed, the friendly greeting on arrival would make a lone diner feel at home here as much as our party of four.
Time being relatively short (aren’t all lunch breaks?) this was going to be a test of customer service, speed and quality. After all, lunch, they say, is one of the best ways to measure how a restaurant is run.
After a sublime shared appetiser of dressed olives and bread chunks we opted to go straight to the specials - each of us choosing a different dish.
Owner Vic Risorto demands vibrant, colourful, visually appealing dishes - and it shows.
Each plate was food for the eyes, as well as the palate.
The seared veal escalope with chilli and sauteed potatoes (£10.95) was an absolute delight.
The meat was succulent and sweet, the potatoes perfection - a gentle crispy skin giving way to a perfect softness. And the dressing had a wonderful chilli tang. Colleague Number 1 had pan-fried belly pork with new potatoes and pesto (£10.95). The fact that he didn’t speak for a full 10 minutes other than words of appreciation for the plate in front of him says all that needs to be said.
Colleague number 2 was delighted with her smoked salmon and ricotta salad (£7.25) - beautifully dressed, elegantly presented.
Colleague number 3 had sundried tomato and spinach risotto (£7.25) - velvety, creamy with just the right amount of ‘bite’ to the rice. My fellow diner’s comment: “why does it never turn out like this when I try it at home!?’
For afters (there is always room for afters) we ordered Sognamo il Limone - lemon posset (sweet, light as air, delectable); Delizia al cioccolato - dark chocolate and amaretto mouse (sinful, rich, irresistible) and Torta di Cioccolata - chocolate and rosemary tart (far too extravagant for a mere lunchtime - incredibly naughty, but very nice). All puddings were £3.25.
The service was superb - considerate, attentive without being oppressive and the dishes, while served promptly, were presented with no sense of a ‘get ‘em in, get ‘em out’ lunchtime rush. And yet we were in and our in an hour.
Risorto has put his life and soul into creating a venue based on the heritage and tradition of his native Calabria in southern Italy, a sociable space with a family feel.
“It’s our life, it’s your place’ he says.
As impromptu lunches go, it was one of the best.
We’ll most definitely be back.
by The Diner
Address: 30, Glumangate, S40 1TX
Phone: 01246 559944