REVIEW: The Italian Farmhouse, South Street, West Rainton

The Italian Farmhouse in West Rainton.
The Italian Farmhouse in West Rainton.
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I’m a sucker for rustic nick-nacks, vintage charm and bags of character.

This Italian has it all in droves – from battered old suitcases, which have no doubt seen some interesting travels to wine bottles presumably left behind over the years by happy diners – and its menu was an equally delightful treasure trove of gastronomic gems.

With my trusty scranning pals Cara and Georga in tow, we visited on a Thursday night after a hectic day toiling away at the Echo coal face.

Staff seem to have the knack of making you feel totally at ease and we were soon sloughing off the stresses of the day over the best-tasting house white I’ve had in a long time.

Wines are served in a carafe and ours was £15.95 for a litre of this fruity little number, which managed to pack a punch while still retaining a refreshing zing.

It slipped down a treat and set our tongues a wagging, which meant it took an age for us to deliberate over the menu.

The super-friendly staff seemed more than happy for us to take our time – despite the restaurant and its adjacent conservatory being full to its country cottage-style rafters.

We’re fond of a sharing platter and the Italian Farmhouse’s version didn’t disappoint.

Those keen to keep their starters all to themselves can expect to choose from the likes of black pudding and prosciutto salad served with a poached egg (£5.50); pancetta, pea and garlic soup (£3.95); smoked haddock and spring onion fishcake and tartare sauce (£4.95) and more.

Soon after we ordered, a wooden board was on our table laden with Italian meats, cheeses, marinated peppers and a punchy smoked tomato chutney (£6.50).

Each morsel was practically perfect in every way and left us eager to see what the main course would be.

After enjoying a sensational seabass here on my last visit a couple of years ago, I was lured in by the fish dishes which includes salmon fillet with pesto, lemon sole goujons with tartare sauce and pan fried loin of hake with a white wine, butter and cream sauce.

Stuck on which fish to go for, I went with a pick ‘n’ mix selection of fishy treats: the grigliata mista pesce (£15.95).

It’s a pretty presented mixed grill of salmon, lemon sole, king prawns, queen scallops and squid served with garlic butter, salad and big, proper, chunky chips.

The star of the show had to be the scallops which oozed flavour as they melted in my mouth, but each component had its own delicious role to play in this feast. The garlic butter knocked my socks off – I could still taste it the next day – but its scrumptious taste was worth the lingering garlic breath.

Georga ordered the dish too and was equally impressed, managing to consume every last mouthful, even though she was stuffed.

Meat-lover Cara was swayed by the steak dishes and tucked into a 8oz chargrilled fillet steak with mushrooms, roasted tomato and thick chips (£17.50).

She ordered it with a peppercorn sauce which received a huge thumbs-up. Her knife slid perfectly through this tender meat and she declared it a must-have on our next visit.

For those counting the pennies, it’s worth taking advantage of the devilishly good 666 offer. Bargain fare includes a choice of six starters, pastas and pizzas with two courses priced £6.66.

The offer runs lunchtimes from Monday to Saturday and evenings from Sunday to Friday until 6pm.

Katy Wheeler