The smell of fresh pizza fills the air as you walk into Carter and Fitch, thanks to a man in whites preparing the Italian staple at a stonebaked pizza oven in the shadow of diners.
It’s a great first impression to make for a brand spanking new restaurant – so new we were one of its first bookings – that’s hoping its £500,000 investment will pay off.
Though it’s been partly created from a former function room at the George Washington Hotel, aside from the fact it shares the venue’s toilets, it’s easy to forget you’re in the hotel.
The decor is nothing like the rest of the site. Instead, it’s a sparkling melting pot of influences with hints to the Prohibition era in the lighting and bar area, feature wallpaper that looks like vintage filing cabinets and a hint of Moorish decoration in the tiling.
It all blends together well to give the restaurant enough of a draw for non-hotel residents. And plenty of free parking and space in this 90-seater venue makes it particularly family-friendly for those with little munchers in tow.
This new kid on the block has also taken a fusion approach to its food, with a blend of chicchetti from Italy, souvlaki from Greece and brisket from the Deep South.
I chose the former to start, which are small plates of appetisers in the style of Italian dining. Two dishes each is the suggested amount to whet your appetite for the rest of your meal and there’s plenty of choice to pick your way through including meatballs glazed with cheese (£3.50), chick pea and chicken casserole (£3.95) and Thai fishcakes (£3.50).
My choice of prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano (£4.50) was artfully-presented and there was plenty of slivers of ham punctuated with sizeable shavings of parmesan. But it was a little dry and could have done with a dressing to lift the flavour. I’d also gone for the bang bang shrimp (£4.50). The shrimps were good – but it was a punchy red mayo which brought the bang, though it was a little over-priced for three prawns.
For mains, I so wanted to try the pizza being hand-made by the chap beavering away in the corner, but the more health-conscious zucchini and halloumi skewer (£13.95) was screaming my name.
Vegetarian options can be bland. Not so here.
Huge chunks of gooey halloumi fought for space on the skewer with slabs of tender courgette (I just can’t call it zucchini) on a springy bed of quinoa, smokey roasted beetroot and a side of plum and apple chutney.
Side orders don’t often warrant a mention, but the Jalapeño corn bread muffin (£3.25) had us cooing thanks to its delicious dichotomy of sweet American bread against the kick of the pepper.
It was a meal that got better as it went on and it peaked with pudding. After the preceding generous mains, it was a case of one pudding, two spoons.
But the mocha ice box cake (£5.25) was so good, I soon regretted the offer to share. Between us we demolished a tower of crushed cookies and sponge, topped off with a lustrous swirl of espresso mascarpone cream.
Service-wise, there’s no one called Carter or Fitch – the restaurant is named after friends who ran a smokehouse in America with Mafia links during the Prohibition era – but the staff were friendly and keen to get feedback on the new venture. So far, so good. The opening of Carter and Fitch seems to have gone without a hitch.