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Little Italy at The Dartmouth Arms, Burnhill Green

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Reviewer's rating ***** Sam Taylor and husband Nigel enjoy big flavours at an Italian restaurant in the countryside.

Reviewer's rating ***** Sam Taylor

and husband Nigel enjoy big flavours at an Italian restaurant in the countryside.

Let's be honest, going out for something to eat on a Saturday night is not necessarily all about the food.

The company, the atmosphere and the service are equally as important.

So when that trio are all in place, and then the food turns out to be fabulous, you really are on course for a good night.

Well, I've found a little gem of place, that on this particular Saturday night ticked all of those boxes.

Little Italy at the Dartmouth Arms pub is just over the Staffordshire border in Burnhill Green, between the villages of Pattingham and Albrighton.

Housed in a converted barn, Little Italy is a restaurant attached to the pub. With gingham tablecloths and wax covered chianti bottles, the setting is intimate but informal, with the heady smells of freshly cooked Italian foods caressing your senses as you walk in.

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Hubby Nigel and I had a drink in the bar first as we looked over the menu, a good mix of traditional Italian favourites of pasta, pizza and risotto, along with steaks, fish and 'old faithfuls'.

As we were shown to our table, I was surprised to see the restaurant was already full: surprised because January is so often a quiet month for many eateries after the over-indulgence of Christmas.

We ordered a bottle of Chilean Merlot (£15.95) from the extensive wine list, and tucked into the complimentary Italian bread with olive oil and balsamic dip.

The atmosphere was really lovely, and the steady buzz of conversation from the 35 or so people dining was relaxed. Four staff comfortably looked after everyone with efficiency, a smile and a friendly word. Unobtrusive music played in the background and the setting ensured a romantic couple were catered for as well as a family party, a girls' night out or late supper with friends.

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For starters I had Camembert Fritto (£5.75) , a deep fried and breadcrumbed cheese with a homemade cranberry sauce accompanied by a finely diced side salad. Always a favourite of mine, as I cut into it the cheese oozed out of its crunchy casing, and teamed with the tangy sauce and fresh salad was delicious.

Fish fiend Nigel opted for the Cozze allo Chef (£6.75), mussels cooked with garlic and leeks in a cream and white wine sauce. I can't say how it tasted, shellfish just don't do it for me, but the presentation looked amazing: four huge shells wrapped in a pale and creamy blanket. Nigel tucked in with gusto and said it was amazing.

For mains, we both wanted something other than pasta, although as I watched other diners' dishes being brought out - magnificent rustic platefuls of linguine, spaghetti and fettuccine - I did have a case of food envy.

But instead I had the chicken au poivre (£15.75), a great, big, fat chicken breast in a classic peppercorn, brandy and cream sauce, while Nige had line-caught Cardigan Bay sea bass (£18.95), pan fried with lemon and dill butter. From a choice of three potatoes, we went for the roast, and both selected vegetables, in this case broccoli and carrots, but could have had salad or onion rings.

My chicken was gorgeous, so succulent all the way through. I'd never had a pepper sauce with chicken, but now I don't know why as the two are perfect partners. The fragrant sauce had quite a kick, warming my mouth, but the softness of the chicken just seemed to bring out the flavour while damping down the fire. The roast potatoes with flawless - dark, gold and crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

Nigel's sea bass was two good sized fillets and these I did try. Beautifully cooked. they too were moist and as light as a feather with a wonderful fresh taste suggesting the chef had treated them with real care and consideration.

We both finished every scrap of this lovely meal and had to take a breather before rounding it all off with pud and coffee.

There were four puddings to choose from, along with a wonderful array of ice creams, and we both had vanilla and passionfruit cheesecake (£4.25) which was lovely.

I will certainly be going back to Little Italy, and can't recommend it highly enough. And as I said at the beginning, this visit really was about so much more than the food.

ADDRESS

Little Italy at The Dartmouth Arms, Burnhill Green, Albrighton WV6 7HU

01746 783268

Website: www.thedartmouth.co.uk

MENU SAMPLE

STARTERS

Antipasti, a selection of Italian meats drizzled with olive oil served with mixed olives and pickles (£6.50); Campangnola, home-made meatballs with a tomato and basil sauce topped with mozzarella (£6.50).

MAIN COURSES

Montradini, linguine served with strips of fillet steak, garlic and mushrooms in a cream sauce (£12.95); Penne agli asparagi, penne and asparagus served with a rich sauce of cheese, cream and garlic (£9.95).

DESSERTS

Tiramisu (£4.25)

ATMOSPHERE

Warm and welcoming

SERVICE

Excellent

DISABLED FACILITIES

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