I’ve never been to an ASK Italian restaurant before. Ever. That’s a bit weird isn’t it, bearing in mind there are around 120 restaurants in the UK. And as we were about to go to actual Italy a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try them out.
We went to the Bluewater restaurant and after that whole awkward blogger thing where your name’s not down on the list (is it just me that happens to?!), the manager was kind enough to let us in.
The décor is probably what you’d expect – bright, airy, with random kitchen utensils hanging from the ceiling. I liked that the kitchen was open, so that you could see what was happening (erm, cooking), and everything was spotlessly clean.
We were here to review the ‘Amici Kids’ menu, but Dexter, being 12 years-old, also tried some of the dishes from the main menu. Similar to some other restaurants, ASK offer a set 3-course menu for children for £6.95, which includes a starter of a small piece of garlic bread (delicious), with a pot of cucumber and carrot sticks with some Marie Rose dressing. It came really quickly (their aim is to make sure children are fed first – happy children = happy parents right?) and it was delicious, but we inhaled it in the blink of an eye.
We also ordered two starters from the main menu – I had oven-roasted butterfly king prawns (in their shells), which were hotter than the sun, and Dexter chose fried calamari. Both delicious, hot and very fresh. In fact, it was the nicest starter we’ve had in a restaurant for a long time, but I would say that at around £5 each, it was a little steep – probably in line with other restaurants (I just don’t eat out much), but I would have hoped for a few more prawns. And I’m also just a bit tight. Still, I couldn’t fault the quality and taste of the food.
Mains – I asked our waiter to recommend a dish to see what he’d say, and he suggested a spicy meatball pasta bake for me, and Dexter (as per) had calzone. He’s going to look like one soon. My dish was spicy, but not too spicy – would have liked a higher meatball : pasta ratio, but flavour-wise, gorgeous. Same with Dexter’s calzone. We also ordered 2 sides – chips and zuchini chips.
From the children’s menu, we chose a pepperoni pizza, which is half the size of an adult’s pizza – perfect for children. (And I took it home for my ‘big’ child (who’s 21) who loved it.)
Now onto the best bit – DESSERT! Dexter had eyed up the special dessert they were promoting, which consisted of a sweet pastry base, filled with vanilla ice-cream, topped with a round white-chocolate shell … and then the waiter pours hot berry sauce on top. I tried to capture it on video for you, but the waiter was so uber efficient, he did it really quickly and I missed it. But trust me, it was delicious.
I was so full up from dinner, that I chose a dessert from the children’s menu – which was either fresh fruit, one scoop of ice-cream with fruit, meringue and mini-marshmallows on the side, or an ice-lolly. (I chose the DIY ice-cream – which was tasty and just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.
We were looked after by … I want to say Daniel? But whatever his name was, and granted, he knew we were there to review the restaurant, but the service was fantastic. Attentive, but not overly so, and nothing was too much trouble. When a restaurant knows I’m there to review it, I always take note of how the staff treat other customers, and they did a fantastic job with everyone, from what I could see.
Our meal came to just over £70 – I only had one Diet Coke, Dexter had two soft drinks, but we did order more than we usually would have done. For example, we had two sides – chips and fried zucchini, and normally we’d just share one, so that would bring the price down a bit. But the children’s menu is good value for money, although it’s worth noting that the £6.95 doesn’t include a drink.
Being a Slimming World follower, I would have liked to have seen nutritional information listed for each dish – not that I was that worried about what I was eating that day. But I spoke to the manager about it and he brought over a book that contained calorie information on all their dishes, which I completely ignored, but it’s good to know it’s there if you need it. It’s just personal preference that I’d like to see all restaurants list this information as a matter of course. It’s also worth noting here that they do offer several gluten-free dishes, and these are clearly marked on the menu.
Service – good. Food – good. Children’s menu – good. I’d say ASK Italian is a good choice for a family meal out and we would go back, although I suspect Dexter would eat from the main menu next time, but little ones will love the children’s menu, especially the dessert. And what’s equally important, especially for someone as notoriously fussy as me, is that the service was great and it’s that that will make me go back. It’s also worth noting that ASK recently won a Gold Mumsnet Family Friendly Award in recognition of their commitment to being a restaurant who are leading the way in family-friendly practices, and I can totally understand why – it was well deserved.
There was a big table next to us, full of a family celebrating … well, I’m not sure, maybe just celebrating Saturday and all being together, and it was lovely to see. They were in no hurry to leave, just enjoying the food and the company, and that’s the vibe I get from ASK – almost as if you’re in a restaurant in Italy, whiling away the hours over a glass of red or two.
Thanks to ASK Italian for inviting us.