With three children and not a massive amount of opportunity to dine out on our own, restaurant visits don’t go unappreciated.
Last Friday, we decided to revisit an Italian we hadn’t been to for a while, Orrell Post’s Sorrento.
I booked the table for 7pm.
Being the idiot I am, of course, I made the mistake of telling my wife I had booked the table for 7pm.
So with five minutes to go, we were still at home, the bride rapidly applying make-up while I made a mental note to trim half-an-hour off the real booking time in future.
I phoned ahead, explained we were running late, but made good time and got there for 7.10pm.
First impressions? It was packed. And lively. And the staff were warm and friendly, greeting us at the door with handshakes.
Our table wasn’t ready, a waiter explained, so we were guided upstairs to a near-empty, but well-decorated, lounge, where we had a drink and browsed the menu.
The menu is comprehensive, and broken down under easy-to-navigate headings – cold starters, hot starts, pizza, pasta, and so on.
I’ve often found Italians fall on the pricier side of a night out, and this proved true to form; pizzas came in under £10 but the steaks and fish dishes range from around £18 to £23.
Usually, I would baulk at paying £4.30 a pint, but the Peroni is cold, and on tap, and served in those brilliantly-branded narrow glasses, so I didn’t mind.
A few minutes later, we were shown downstairs to a corner table.
The atmosphere was thriving, a few big-table celebrations a boisterous atmosphere, the noise amplified by the terracotta tiled floor and the tight table arrangement.
All around, everyone appeared in good spirits; nearby tables joined in on one vocal rendition of ‘happy birthday’ led – with plenty of enthusiasm – by one of the waiters. We sat and soaked up the atmosphere, sipped our drinks, as we waited for our order to be taken.
And waited some more.
From walking through the door, to our order being taken, it took 50 minutes.
We had drinks in front of us, a babysitter with the children, and a lot to talk about after big weeks at work.
But after half-an-hour or so, we were both getting hungry; as if by telepathic understanding, a waiter appeared with complimentary garlic bread and apologised for the delay – but still our order wasn’t taken.
I know the Italians like stretching meals out into an event, but even this was stretching it too far.
The staff, it must be said, were friendly and attentive; there just didn’t seem to be enough of them to meet the demands of the packed room.
Finally, gone past 8pm, a waiter appeared – with another apology – to take our order.
Surprisingly, having waited so long until that point, our starters arrived five minutes later.
I opted for the calamari – something I love as much for the taste, as the holiday-memories it stirs.
It was lightly dusted, delicious, and plentiful; a dozen ‘rings’, accompanied with a crunchy salad garnish and a puddle of tartar sauce.
My wife’s deep-fried Mozarella proved too filling for her, so I helped with one of the hash-brown-sized triangular treats.
“The trouble with eating Italian food,” I once read, “is that five or six days later, you’re hungry again.”
Which proved true.
I should have worn my stretchy ‘Joey-Tribiani-tackles-a-turkey-pants’, because I was almost full by the time the main courses arrived (in good time, I should add).
In past visits, I’ve usually opted for the sword-fish; it is not only nice, but hard to find elsewhere to cook at home.
This time, I went for the chicken with peppercorn sauce.
The meat was a little dry, but the accompanying sauce was rich, creamy and delicious, and proved ample compensation. It was served with a side plate of potatoes and fresh vegetables. My wife opted for the gnocchi, which tasted okay, she said, but looked like soup – it was drowning in sauce.
We both enjoyed the evening out. There is a warm charm to Sorrento, no doubt; a personality which brings people back time and again.
It will no doubt bring us back ... and next time I’ll remember to tell the bride the table’s booked for 6pm!
The bill ...
Pint of Peroni £4.30
Large glass of wine £4.95
Mozzarella inpanta £5.85