Yesterday for me was one of the most exciting (and expensive) days of the year… New Ukulele Day. Other ukulele players know this exciting time, when we tend to the fires of our UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome) by purchasing another much needed ukulele. Yes, we need them.
The journey to Omega Music (check them out, best instrument shop bar none) and back featured stops at Westmorland Services near Tebay and Reghead Discovery Centre. Yes, I am mentioning a service station, because it was brilliant! All service stations should be family owned and run, and feature a great cafe and a farm shop! Reghead… well, the artisan food bit there wasn’t quite so impressive.
On the way back we picked up Sara, my girlfriend who has to put up with me, and decided to drop in at The Snug in Carnforth for a pint, however my dad overshot the turning, and Sara said “never mind, you can buy me dinner instead”
On the way, we passed The Villa Italian, owned by Simon Rigby, local entrepreneur and restauranteur, and decided we would pay them a visit. We went to Sara’s, dropped off my uke and her bags, got ready and set off for some Italian goodness, just like mama used to make… or something like that, anyway.
Things didn’t get off to a promising start when after our waiter took our drinks order, Sara had to repeat herself a couple of times to ask for a JD Honey and Coke (is Pepsi ok?) as he didn’t seem to be paying much attention, perhaps due to this new trend of taking orders on iProducts instead of paper, waiters up and down the country looking like they’re engrossed by a particularly hard level of Angry Birds! When he returned with drinks and took our food orders, there was more repeating ourselves, and he even seemed surprised by our request for dishes that were on the menu, as if this was a massive surprise to him, I even had to point out the dish on the menu! After a short wait, starters arrived.
Sara went for Brie Fritti, deep fried Brie, with a homemade cranberry chutney. This is one of Sara’s favourite starters, however we both had the “and where’s the rest of it?” moment when it was placed on the table. When I asked her if she enjoyed it, Sara responded with “it was nice but brief”. I’m not sure if the pun was deliberate.
I went for Calimari Fritti, which was served on a Masterchef circa 2010 swipe of neon yellow saffron and garlic mayonnaise.
Firstly, though it was an alarming shade of yellow, the mayonnaise was gorgeous and garlicky, even if I couldn’t detect that metallic hum of saffron. I ended up licking this off my finger! Unfortunately, because the squid rings had been sat on the mayonnaise, the batter had gone a bit soggy, and the calimari itself was like Han Solos best friend… chewy! (Badum tish!)
What I was rather pleased with was the fact that the salads were dressed, something a lot of places tend to overlook *coughSamlesbury Hallcough* meaning I could polish it off.
For mains I went for the Fettuccine Alfredo, fettuccine pasta in a creamy sauce with mushrooms and ham. This was tasty and very filling, but I do wonder if this was made from the same base sauce as their spaghetti carbonara, on account of finding a few strands of spaghetti interlocking in my bowl.
Sara’s main was the Conchiglioni Pesto, or as the poor waiter called it, con…cha…erm…, yeah, it’s a bit of a tongue twister, Sara was glad she’s not the only one who struggled with the pronunciation. It was a nice enough dish, though the creamy sauce was something of a surprise and wasn’t what either of us were expecting at all!
Because we were being a pair of greedy guts we decided to go all out and have a pudding, too. I went for one of Sara’s favourites, a tiramisu, and although I couldn’t claim they were skimping on the portion size (it was massive), they really need to up the ante with the coffee. This was like eating layers of bland sponge and sweetened cream, any coffee flavour was merely a suggestion.
In the battle of the puddings, Sara won with her Coffee Renoir, which was delicious, crisp choux pastry filled with a nice light creme patissere and whipped cream, topped with a coffee flavoured icing. Why there was a superfluous squirt of aerosol cream with an already creamy pud, we’re not sure why. If it needs more cream, how about a nice creme Chantilly?
When the bill arrived, I paid up, but it was only upon viewing this photo I noticed the staggering price for Sara’s drink. £4.30 in total for a JD Honey and Pepsi!? They charged me for half a pint of Pepsi when most other places consider that a “splash” and usually charge somewhere between 30p & 50p! Just a little steep!
We waddled back to Sara’s with our full bellies, somehow not completely satisfied, but also not completely disappointed. The Villa Italian is one of the better places to eat in the Preston postcode, but let’s be honest… competition isn’t exactly fierce. We are a city by name, but still lack the quality of dining options compared to others.