As you know, I’m still adjusting to normality after six months away from home. And as a reader of my blog (thanks by the way, love you) you’ll also know I’m a massive fan of Italian food. In 2015, I was a judge for Manchester’s first Italian Awards where I was sent up and down the region tasting some of the best Italian scran the North West has to offer.
Another notable Italian event I attended recently was a live cookery demonstration by Italian cook, Antonia, at Stefano De Blasio kitchens in Chester. She flew in to mark the launch of their new kitchen showroom and rustled us up some traditional Italian home cooking, and I must say it was exceptional.
Anyway, I digress, so let’s get down to the food and drink at Sarafina.
Nibbles and Aperitif
We arrived early so we could enjoy some drinks outside on the terrace. Yes, outside. The weather was lovely! The restaurant was really busy (always a good sign) so it was nice to relax outside with a drink and some nibbles before our meal, and the waiter was happy for us and a couple of other tables to do this.
I had the bellini, and my friend Lucas had the espresso martini. The bellini was great, but the martini did lack that velvety smooth richness, you expect from an espresso martini. I joked that perhaps it was a lighter, more Summery version? Lucas told me not to mention that in the review because it was a ridiculous suggestion…
Nibbles! The tomato and basil garlic bread was divine. Light, crispy base with a rich tomato sauce topping and sprinkled with pungent, fresh-dried herbs. I really enjoyed this and it gives me high hopes for the pizzas!
The olives were fat, plump and juicy – just how I like them – and the fresh chilli pieces in the marinade worked really too.
Starters and Wine
After the nibbles we moved into the restaurant which was bustling and busy with a big party occupying the right-hand side of the dining room. There were another two tables of four, a table of three and another table of two (plus us), and about another six diners upstairs. Impressive for a Tuesday evening!
We went all-out and shared the following: calamari, pork belly and scallops.
Overall, the starters were tasty and really well presented and cooked. The calamari was lightly battered and still soft, not over cooked at all. The batter was falling off a little but I think that’s just because it was so light, which I liked, as it meant the delicate flavour of the squid wasn’t over powered.
The scallops were lovely – fresh and still had the roe attached which I love. The salad was fresh and crunchy and the celeriac puree was great. I think it would have been just as lovely without the bacon!
On to the belly pork – I think their most popular starter. The pork was crispy throughout, kind of like crackling on a roast pork. It was nice, but it would have been great for it to have a bit of juiciness left, as well as the much-loved crunch!
The spiced apricot tasted like a chutney, and I would have preferred it to have a little more of a citrus lift to cut through the pork – but that’s perhaps just my personal taste and obsession with adding zest to everything! The presentation was faultless, it looked spectacular.
And oh yes, wine, I almost forgot. With the starters we enjoyed a glass of the Sicilian Appregio Catarratto – which had a hint of floral sweetness that cut through the salty, savouriness of the starters really well.
Mains and More Wine
Onto the mains, and I chose the rigatoni amatriciana (Napoli sauce, smoked pigs cheeks and chilli, with roasted sweet peppers and shallots) and the seafood risotto (prawns, mussels and baby squid, Napoli sauce and fish broth, garlic and a touch of ginger).
I chose the amatriciana as I’d had it recently at an Italian cooking demonstration and it blew me away with its stunning simplicity. Sarafina’s version, unfortunately, did not impress me as much. The pig’s cheek was so overpoweringly smoky that I really couldn’t taste the other flavours – especially the chilli.
I love roasted sweet peppers and shallots, but they were so big and chunky they kind of over powered the dish too. I think they’ve over complicated things with this dish and it would work better as a simplified version, but that’s just my opinion!
The risotto, however, was stunning. It says on the menu ‘baby prawns’ but there was one huge tiger prawn still in the shell and lots of king prawns throughout the dish.
The fish broth flavour shone through, the ginger gave it a little warmth and it was all cooked really well. I would certainly order this dish again.
With the mains we drank Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which worked really well with the rich, tomato based dishes as it’s not too heavy and is dry – very drinkable indeed!
Coffees and Desserts
You won’t believe this but yes, we had room for pudding *fat food blogger alert*.
Call me old-fashioned, but I love tiramisu and think it’s always a good judge of an Italian restaurant. We also ordered crema Catalunya which was subtle, moreish and went well with the coffee.
The tiramisu was an improvement on the one I ate at Gusto last year before my travels. A VAST improvement, as Sarafina’s version isn’t trying to be all cake-like and fancy. It’s full of cream and the coffee flavour shines through. One gripe however, was that I couldn’t taste any Amaretto, which was disappointing as I love a boozy pudding – but again I think this may just be personal taste!
The espresso was lovely – but no time for any other coffees as we literally had to dash for our trains. We lost track of time and I do think that’s partly because of the lovely, bustling atmosphere in this place. You kind of forget where you are whilst enjoying your meal which is a great quality for a restaurant to have, I must say.
I thought the decor was simple and stunning and the bathroom finished to a beautifully high-standard. Overall I’d recommend Sarafina, they have a great choice of food and drink and the staff are friendly and professional.
Thanks to Romin at Sarafina for inviting me along to review their food and drinks after the lovely refurbishment. As always, opinions are honest and based on my own experiences and I hope you’ve found the review useful!