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Even fussy eaters will leave Sambuca full
KEEPING five fussy eaters happy is no easy feat, but all of us left Sambuca full and content.
My partner Stacey and I are were joined for this meal by her two daughters, aged 10 and 12, and the eldest girl’s new boyfriend (modern families eh?).
I am usually rather self-conscious when in a restaurant and hate the idea of my noisy party disrupting others, and while Sambuca was relatively busy when we ate such was the laid back attitude of the staff and the distance between diners I soon felt quite at ease.
That said, I still found myself apologising for the debris scattered across the dishcloth after we had finished.
Our cleanliness was not helped by our starters, namely two garlic breads (£1.50 each) and an antipasto selection (£4.90) featuring fish in breadcrumbs, a range of cold meats, prawns, mussels, bruschetta, salad and eggs.
The antipasto would have been a perfect amount for two but between five it became a little bit meagre, I did not get to try everything on the board, while the garlic bread was thin, crispy and tasty.
In future, I would recommend ordering one antipasto per two diners, but have to admit that it was a great way of getting the children, not known for their open-mindedness, to try new foods.
For the main course I ordered my customary Italian dish, a meatfeast pizza and I was delighted to see thick chunks of chicken, plenty of pepperoni and slabs of bacon atop the thin crust lathered in tomato sauce and cheese.
It was a filling dish, and costing only £6.95 it really was a great bargain.
I’m saying that even though it was the most expensive thing on the menu, or near enough, while Stacey went with a rather juicy-looking strips of beef and tagliatelli (£7.90).
The youngsters each got a pasta, one had a Napoli which comprises tomato and garlic sauce, while the other two opted for carbonara, a creamy sauce with bacon bits.
And judging by the empty plates and groans of fullness at the end, they were enjoyed, and costing only £3.95 each meant my wallet was also still feeling reasonably heavy at the end of the night.
In fact it is the cost of this enterprise which most pleased me.
The food was typical Italian fare, all well cooked and presented.
It was tasty and enjoyable, but was not anything particularly unusual: you knew what you were getting and were pleased with what you were given.
But the fact it was all so cheap made it for me a much more enjoyable experience.
Between us we devoured two large garlic breads, an antipasto board featuring that nice array of teasers, four plates of pasta, one meaty pizza, two portions of cream-filled chocolate coated profiteroles and a strawberry cheesecake, all washed down with four large diet cokes and two large dry white wines, and the bill came to a delicious £61.10.
The restaurant itself is very nicely laid out, we were sat in a pleasant little booth straddled by a rather ornate ivy archway.
With its terracotta walls and Roman architecture, not to mention the large jugs and amphorae scattered around the room, it is clear that you are in an Italian restaurant, although elements of it feel somewhat like a movie scene rather than a genuine bistro.
It is large and spacious, and if you look up you can see the old roof and beams from its days as the town’s railway station.
It has been an Italian restaurant for several years now but Sambuca, a chain with restaurants around the North East, only took it over eight weeks ago, and the most significant change they have made is opening up the kitchen so that diners can see their food being prepared.
This is a nice idea but in practice I found it ruined the whole authentic experience a bit as the chef’s, while good with food, did not exactly look like grizzled food masters from Italy.
The waiting staff were friendly and welcoming, and the nippers at our table were over the moon to be called “sir”, “madam” and “my little darling”.
The phrase cheap and cheerful is bandied around a lot nowadays but I would say it is very appropriate for Sambuca.
The meals were filling and tasty, for this price you cannot expect haute cuisine, and for keeping a brood of hungry children happy on a damp Monday night there would be few better places.
Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 6 Service 7 Surroundings 8 Value 8