It's officially Christmastime and the hubby and I were determined to celebrate with a romantic meal to break up what was looking to be a particularly challenging working week. Plus, Tuesday is meant to be his day to cook, so naturally he jumped at the chance to get out of it. We hit Leeds City Centre to check out ASK Italian's new festive menu, and boy did we get more than we bargained for. Literally.
It may have been a quiet night but the atmosphere was still an enjoyable one. The decor was simple and romantic - lots of fake flowers and vines, Italian-style art and fairylights. Very pretty and tasteful. We were greeted upon arrival with samples of their delicious raspberry-flavoured still lemonade which I ended up drinking way too much of. Going teetotal truly has its merits!
There were three different festive menus to choose from: The Festivo and the Non Gluten which were both £19.95, and the Super Festivo for £24.95. We were feeling fancy and wanted to do this review justice so the Super Festivo it was.
To start, I opted for the N'duja Garlic Bread Wreath, which was a garlic bread ring stuffed with N'duja sausage and mozzarella served with a pot of lightly spiced N'duja ketchup. I reckon a sprig of basil and a couple of chilli pearls for garnish would've made it properly Christmassy, but this is Italian food and the beauty of a good Italian restaurant is that the food is uncomplicated and the presentation unpretentious.
I was pleased to find that the garlic bread was served at a decent temperature so I could use my fingers to tear and dip. Not like when you're at a certain other pizza restaurant chain where the dough balls are hotter than the coals in your Christmas fireplace and you are forced to eat them with a fork. Nobody wants to eat bread with a fork. My Bread Wreath was a sexy alternative to a regular garlic bread starter, and I loved it so much I'm thinking of changing my name to N'duja. I just need to learn how to pronounce it first.
The hubby went for the Butterfly King Prawns which were roasted on Italian bread with garlic and parsley. It's prawn toast Italian style. The prawns were generously portioned, satisfyingly meaty and a little crispy on the outside. Even if the bread was a teeny bit soggy, it didn't take away from the overall flavour and they remain a firm favourite of Female First.
My main was the Prima Pizza Salami Misti: Milano and fennel salami, pepperoni, smoked prosciutto, roasted peppers and balsamic red onions. I had to try a little of hubby's Christmas Carbonara for the purpose of this review, so I offered him a bite of my pizza. A bite. He ate the whole slice as I stared a little dumbstruck at his brazen enjoyment of my food. Still, I couldn't blame him; it was probably the best pizza I've eaten in a long time and I eat a lot of pizza. The flavours were rich and well-balanced and you could taste every single ingredient from the hint of fennel in the salami to the balsamic in the sweet red onions. For something that tasted so premium, I would've expect a smaller pizza, but, as seems to be the ASK Italian way, there was more than even I could manage.
The same went for the Christmas Carbonara. For a traditional peasant dish, it was a superior pasta experience. With fresh tagliatelle (not frilly, despite what the menu described), crispy pancetta and a very smooth sauce with creamy mascarpone, classic pecorino and riserva cheese, it was a luxury take on a much loved dish. As for what made it a "Christmas" carbonara, that would be the sprouts. If you love sprouts - great! If not, don't worry - they must have been so finely shredded that neither of us even noticed they were there. It certainly didn't look "as advertised" as it were. Regardless, it was still an excellent meal and I'm tempted to return to try their standard Asparagus & Pancetta Carbonara - which hopefully contains noticeable asparagus.
I really wasn't sure if I was going to make it to dessert, but I'm a brave soldier and ordered the much adored Chocolate Etna. I may have struggled to button my coat afterwards, but I've no regrets. That pud was a journey of self-discovery. There was something new to taste with every bite and I don't care how corny that sounds. The salted caramel diluted the richness of the chocolate fondant and the vanilla gelato which were hidden beneath a solid chocolate dome. When you audibly gasp at the sight of chocolate and ice cream oozing from your edible volcano, you know it's one of those desserts you'll remember forever. The waitress admitted she hadn't tried it and I genuinely feel so sorry for her. The last time I felt this good about a sweet treat was the first time I tried baklava at a Turkish restaurant.
The hubby was reluctant to order dessert but he relented to pressure for the first time in eight years and got the Glittery Gingerbread Latte Cake. He's a sucker for coffee puddings and he wasn't disappointed. The cream, the sparkly sauce, the gingerbread and the hint of latte were all beautifully balanced and, while it was very sweet, it wasn't off-puttingly rich and he managed to finish it without a struggle.
ASK Italian was the perfect blend of romance, opulence and comfort, but the only thing Christmassy about the festive menu were the names they gave the dishes. On balance, though, we've no complaints. With exciting flavours and generous portions, ASK Italian is excellent value for money and a great date night for anyone.