Review: Italian Farmhouse, South Street, West Rainton

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WE were regular visitors to the Italian Farmhouse, but hadn’t been for a while, so when I heard they had introduced a new menu, I thought it was time to be reacquainted.

It is a cosy, comfortable restaurant, with stone floors, wine bottles on the walls and candles on the tables. The welcome is always as warm as the atmosphere and we were greeted like old friends, before being ushered through to the conservatory section of the restaurant.

We’d booked for an early start and it was busy with folk dining off the very popular early birds’ menu which offers two courses for £6.66 – with a choice of six starters, then a choice of six pizzas or pasta dishes before 6pm.

There’s also a happy hour menu.

We ate off the main menu, eager to try some of the new dishes.

For a starter I decided on the chicken livers baked in a clay pot.

It came to the table served in a deliciously thick tomato and garlic sauce, going well with the strong flavour of the livers.

My dining partner chose the antipasti platter, a wooden board covered in Italian meats and cheeses, with a serving of lovely tomato chutney on the side.

The smoked meats were excellent, and the cheeses went very well with the chutney. Even the bread before the starter was served with an assortment of dips.

The main menu has plenty of choices – from your usual pastas and pizzas to rabbit and a fish ragout. There is also a good range of steaks.

I opted for pollo parmigiana, a breaded escalope of chicken served in a wonderfully creamy Parmesan sauce.

My partner had chosen the seabass, which was wrapped in prosciutto with gnocchi, clams and roasted garlic. Neither of us had heard of this dish before, but he declared it delicious before wolfing his large portion down with indecent haste.

I felt full, but the lure was too strong, so I succumbed to a sticky toffee pudding while my partner had the honey-flavoured pannacotta which came served with ginger and poached rhubarb.

Both desserts were beautifully presented – and very much enjoyed.

Starters on the main menu are priced from £3.95 to £7.60 (for the king prawns). Pasta dishes start at £6.65 and pizzas from £5.95. Steaks are priced from £14.50 and my chicken dish was £12.25, while the seabass was £13.75.

There is a good selection of wines, some priced by the bottle, and there is also a reasonable selection of liqueurs.

There is a small car park behind the restaurant and disabled access is good.