Restaurant review: Calabria, Chesterfield

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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.

Five stars

by The Diner

Calabria, Chesterfield

Address: 30, Glumangate, S40 1TX

Website: www.calabriacucina.co.uk

Phone: 01246 559944

Email: info@calabriacucina.co.uk