Restaurant review: Divino, Adel, Leeds

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As any football fan will tell you, winning a title is one thing, retaining it is another.

Perhaps it’s the weight of expectation, a team resting on their laurels, or simply that competitors will up their game in a bid to unseat the incumbent champion.

Whatever the reason, the period following a big title win is often fraught with difficulties.

So, when my companion and I ventured to Adel’s celebrated Divino on a Saturday night, we were hoping that they would be the exception to the rule.

As regular readers may recall, the popular restaurant scooped the hotly-contested title of Best Italian at last year’s Oliver Awards.

It’s one of the biggest gongs to go home with, and with such stiff competition from city centre eateries, it’s impressive to see the award go to a restaurant in the suburbs.

My dining companion and I were keen to see if the standards were still high, and visit on a Saturday evening.

As we arrive, we are greeted by a friendly waiter who shows us to our table.

Following him through the restaurant, we notice there are a few tables of families who are celebrating birthdays.

It’s a sign of a good restaurant when you have people celebrating special occasions there, and shows they have faith that they will have a good time and enjoy some good food.

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At least, that’s what we’re hoping.

There’s a large bar towards the front of the restaurant, and our table is nestled behind it.

A different waiter comes to take our drinks order and we are left alone with the menus as we try to decide what to have.

The menu has a large number of dishes on it, which doesn’t make it easy to decide.With more than 20 starters and around 45 main courses, plus a specials menu, it takes time to wade through the lists.

But with the range of pizzas, pastas and meat dishes, there will be something to suit even the fussiest of eaters.

Starters begin at around £4 for garlic bread or olives, and go up to £8 for seafood options.

I opt for one of the specials – scallops in a butter and garlic sauce for £8.25.

My dining companion eventually goes for spicy meatballs in a chilli, mushroom and tomato sauce with toasted bread, for £6.95.

We place our order with another waiter, and the food is brought out to us fairly quickly....by a different waiter.

Without even making it to our main course, we’ve been served by around five different people.

It’s a little distracting and led to some confusion with our drinks order but the staff seem to know what they are doing and aren’t phased by it.

My dining companion’s starter is a generous portion, with three large meatballs smothered in a rich tomato sauce, with herbs sprinkled on top.

The bread is lightly toasted and the sauce is packed with flavour, and the meatballs are perfectly cooked and seasoned to perfection – or so my companion tells me.

I’m far too preoccupied with my own meal to notice what’s happening on the other side of the table.

The four scallops are presented beautifully on the plate, with the buttery sauce poured over the top and a small salad on the side, with some artistic balsamic vinegar drizzled underneath some roasted tomatoes on the vine.

Luckily for me, it’s as tasty as it looks.

The scallops are cooked perfectly and the sauce is bursting with flavour.

It sets the bar high and we are excited to see what the rest of the meal has to offer.

Pizzas start at around £7 for a Margherita, and go up to £10.

Pasta dishes hover around the same price but if you want to push the boat out and order something a little more pricy, there’s the option to do that too.

For £15 you can get a roast rump of lamb, grilled salmon or ‘pollo alla crema’.

There’s also veal, duck and steak options, with the beef fillet medallions, horseradish mash and madeira sauce the most expensive at £20.95.

I opt for the beef stroganoff, at £16.95.

The beef is tender and juicy and of excellent quality, and the sauce is flavourful without being too overbearing or creamy.

The rice is a nice small portion and is cooked with a bay leaf, which added a little something extra to the dish.

My dining companion chooses the special – duck in plum sauce, with vine-ripened tomatoes (much like my starter).

It proves to be his favourite course, with the pink, tender duck the star of the show.

We also order a side of spinach with garlic butter and sautéed potatoes.

With a tiny amount of room left for dessert, we peruse the menu. There isn’t as much choice as the other courses, and all of them are £4.95.

I go for the chocolate fudge cake, served warm with ice cream.

Dusted with cocoa powder and drizzled in chocolate sauce, the cake is a nice way to end the meal, but isn’t anything particularly special.

My companion chooses the tiramisu, which is also slightly disappointing and lacked flavour.

With a bottle of wine, the bill comes to £80.

Considering the feast we’ve had, we feel that it’s a reasonable amount to pay – especially with the two stunning starters and main courses.

The food at Divino is certainly good enough to rival its competitors in the city centre, but with new restaurants opening almost every week in Leeds, this award-winner may need to up their game with the desserts to avoid relegation.

Food: ****

Value: ****

Atmosphere: ****

Service: ***

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