Primo Ristorante is perfectly located for hundreds of office workers in the vicinity of Wellington Street. For me, it was a perfect spot to dine out early on a Friday afternoon.
Positioned on the junction with Northern Street, the restaurant’s modern glass facade is elevated from the road, cleverly screening dinners from passing traffic. From the street it looks snug but inside it is surprisingly roomy, the high ceiling and floor to ceiling front window makes it feel airy and spacious. A bar area inside the entrance opens into a larger dining space with sleek black tables and curved back chairs - the kind of sophisticated style typical of modern Italian restaurants in this country; less the cosy home-cooking style atmosphere and more sleek and trendy like a catwalk at an Italian fashion show.
Arriving in the wind and the rain before my dining partner three staff carrying out duties behind the bar were dressed smartly in black and white shirts and ties, and offered a welcoming smile as my reservation was confirmed. I needn’t have been so organised, only one other table was occupied.
While I waited for my fellow diner’s arrival I was invited to sit at a table opposite the bar. A few minutes later I sat cradling a dark, bitter coffee - just the way I like it.
When my company arrived, we were seated and presented with two menus - an extensive a la carte menu, with starters ranging from garlic bread pizza to king prawns, smoked aubergine puree, confit tomato and chorizo crisps. First course offerings included a dozen pasta dishes and seven main courses, meat and fish dishes, started at £11.95. There was, of course, a dozen pizzas to choose from, all priced at less than £11.
It was the Express Lunchtime menu that grabbed us. For five pence short of a £10 note, a two-course meal is available, including a drink. My partner chose the venison terrine starter which she remarked was chunky and satisfying for such a cold day. The pickle on the side tasted homemade and gave the dish a welcome tartness. I chose the soup of the day. It took our waiter a brief pause to recall what flavour it was - French onion soup. It was pleasingly sweet and had a generous quantity of sliced onion.
For main course, I chose red mullet, a delicately flavoured fish accompanied by a rich black olive tapenade which tasted fresh but was a little overpowering. Being so light, the dish was a good choice for lunch.
My dining companion opted for the risotto, a dish she admits to being fussy about, but her review was positive. It was cooked al dente with a bite to the rice and came with crunchy vegetables.
Appetites sated, I finished with another coffee and my table partner, a hot chocolate which, oops, came with milk despite being ordered without.
Overall, the atmosphere was relaxing with gentle Mediterranean music distracting from the lack of customers, the surroundings smart but comfortable, the staff friendly and helpful and the food, at this price, represented good value with the final bill just short of £25.