IT’S neither in Italy, nor a farmhouse, but Italian Farmhouse does a fine job of conjuring up the warm welcome and hearty fare you’d expect from this corner of the world.
We visited after a shift at Echo Towers – it’s our new local since moving to Rainton Bridge Business Park – and even at 5.30pm on a Tuesday the place was bustling – always a good sign.
Many of our fellow diners were families as this is a particularly rug rat-friendly venue.
So much so, that during happy hour, which runs from Monday to Friday and Sunday from 5pm to 6.45pm, kids can get creative and make their own pizzas, and there was a buzz of excitement about the place as eager faces saw their pizzas being whisked off to the kitchen.
We were seated in the conservatory area, but there’s also a more cosy restaurant area filled with all manner of nick-nacks, from crab pots and dry hops festooned about the place to trinkets and teapots filling the window sills. Look up and you’ll even spot a violin case and lacrosse stick stuck to the ceiling. It’s a mish-mash of curiosities, but it works well to create an overall charm.
Price-wise, there’s some good offers to be had here. As well as the Happy Hour, there’s also a 666 offer, where you choose from a choice of six starters and mains for £6.66.
Running over lunch and Sunday to Friday from 5pm to 6pm, it’s great if you’re after some classic pizza/pasta options.
We chose from the more extensive main menu which proudly proclaims its local suppliers.
To aid our deliberations we were presented with some bread and dips. Not something I would usually feel the need to mention, but this fragrant home-made version was piping hot from the oven and came with a delicious array of rich tapenade, chilli cream cheese, garlic oil and a chilli oil which offered an eye-watering kick.
To start, I chose the black pudding salad (£5.50). An oft-underrated sausage, it was great to see it used in a way other than in a greasy fry up. This version was just the right side of fatty, a generous, dense slab squashing a bed of salad and slivers of parma ham. A poached egg added a satisfying gooeyness to the dish.
There’s plenty of mains to choose from, all with a distinctly Italian flavour. I went with what our waitress described as the chef’s favourite – the Pollo Crema Rosemarino (£12.75).
It was a chunky chicken which tasted perfectly fresh, as opposed to the frozen versions sometimes dished up in pubs, and arrived in a pool of sauce. There was plenty to smother the chicken and accompanying vegetables and though it was cream-based, it didn’t taste too heavy. A blend of sherry, pecorino cheese and rosemary added some colour and lighter nuances and I mopped up every last lustrous drop.
If you’ve any room left, desserts are a moreish affair. My mate chose the hazelnut and frangelico mousse with Autumn berries (£4.95). Creamy, thick and sinfully delicious, it was the cherry on top of this top class culinary cake.