Lucia Wine Bar & Grill has brought the light to dining in Harrogate. Literally.
Drive or walk through Harrogate town centre towards Ripon and Lucia is on the left, just opposite the Royal Hall, set back from the road in what used to be Joe Rigatoni Italian restaurant.
You can’t miss it, especially not at night, because it’s all lit up, decked out with strings and strings of fairy lights wrapped around the balconies of the verandas, while the orange canopy umbrellas make an eye-catching sight during the day, too.
It’s rather wonderful, reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa built on a coastal slope, except that Lucia very much based in landlocked Harrogate. We went in the early evening and felt as if we ought to be papped as we made our way up the stairs to the main entrance on the first floor, heels clicking in time to the whirling strums of the Gypsy Kings.
We decided to sit outside because it looked so inviting, like going out for dinner on holiday somewhere in the Med to a large, bustling taverna you’ve been told you must try. There was a nip in the air, but the heaters and throws thoughtfully provided on the backs of all the chairs saw to it that we were warm as toasted ciabatta.
There are three storeys, and no steps at the ground floor dining area for those in wheelchairs, or in pushchairs or on crutches, but if you’re wanting to drink or dine on the first or second floors, there are quite a few steps to contend with.
Inside the decor is lavish, although invitingly so, not off-putting, with, among other points of interest, a huge fish tank on the first floor and a massive Italianate classical architectural painting presiding over the second floor dining room.
There’s also a busy bar on the first floor and it’s clearly a meeting place for the well-dressed and fashionable to hang out of an evening for drinks and nibbles.
My dining companion and I decided to have a little drink first too. Rude not to as the cocktails were reasonably priced at £4.95 and looked delicious.
I picked the exotically named Paradise in Yorkshire, with mango vodka and passion fruit liqueur among its ingredients. It tasted as gorgeous as it looked and I had to stop myself from ordering another immediately.
On to the starters, which are also called Petit Lucia’s or small plates. The service is excellent. Many of the staff are young and the ones who served us were friendly, attentive and efficient.
My dining companion chose the crispy cajun calamari rings with lemon mayonnaise (£5.25), which came thick, chunky and succulent, with not a hint of rubberiness, as often can be the case. She loves calamari and is quite particular, but declared them perfect.
I tried one too (the smallest one) and it was indeed lovely. I had Lucia’s hot and spicy chicken wings with piri piri dip (£4.25), which was plentiful and beautifully presented, the wings succulent and tasty, not too hotly spiced, and the dip was spot-on spicy delicious (my companion had a couple of the wings too - not the smallest ones).
For mains, I chose sirloin steak with red wine jus, served with chips (£15.95). It was well cooked (I asked for medium rare, and it was), although I would have preferred a slightly richer, thinner jus. My companion went for the pork belly and chorizo sausage (£9.75), which came with mash and mustard sauce.
This too came promptly, was well presented and cooked to perfection, crispy and not overwhelming on the fat front, which can be hard to achieve with pork belly.
My chips of course I shared, as you generally always do when someone has ordered a dish that comes with mash. There were enough for two, thankfully.
We could have ordered pizzas including Gamberoni with king prawns, garlic butter and rocket (£9.95) or Caprino with goat’s cheese, cherry tomato and spinach (£8.25). Or we could have tried the pasta, perhaps linguini roma, with seafood, garlic and chilli (£10.95).
Side orders are £2.50 each and include herb roasted new potatoes and onion rings.
The desserts didn’t disappoint - I went for the cheese board with Harrogate Blue, Wensleydale Oak Smoked Cheddar and Reblochon de Savoie (£5.95) - a meal in itself, and what a perfect afternoon accompaniment it would make if sitting out with wine on a veranda.
My companion went for the warm chocolate cake served with ice cream (£4.50), which she enjoyed, though by now feeling rather stuffed.
At night, Lucia feels grown up and sophisticated, though not at all cliquey and there are people of all ages there, dining, drinking and chilling. I have been since during the day and it’s busy and vibrant then too, and has become popular for families with children.
For the early evening, there’s a mid-week wind-down deal, Monday to Friday 5 to 7pm, when a litre of house wine costs £9.95.
With our meal, we chose the Australian Five Foot Track Chardonnay (£15.95), which never disappoints. My companion sensibly also ordered a lemonade (£2.50). Champagne, Moet, Dom Perignon and Cristal are available, for those celebrating.
The bill came to £76.35, which we agreed was terrific value for an excellent evening, with plentiful drink and food, impressive surroundings and a fabulous, fascinating, easy-going atmosphere.
I see that there are two more Lucias in Yorkshire, in York and Beverley.
If they are as good as the Harrogate Lucia, they are a must.
Lucia Wine Bar & Grill
Address: Ripon Road, Harrogate, HG1 2SX
Tel: 01423 500071