Call it the rub of the green, the luck of the draw or whatever you like – sometimes fortune is just on your side.
Make no mistake, it’s not usually like Oliver to let his choice of restaurant essentially rest on the toss of a coin.
But on this occasion I’m willing to concede that the usual meticulous selection procedure was put to one side in favour of a more random approach.
It had started simply enough, with my companion deciding she fancied an evening out, somewhere outside the city centre and nothing too demanding or upmarket.
And that’s where it all got a bit more complicated, with me being unable to come to anything approaching a decision on a venue.
It was then that I remembered Garforth’s La Bella Vita.
It’s been a couple of years since Oliver’s last visit, and as I recall, the last meal, while nothing wildly impressive, was pleasant enough so I decided to just book a table and have done with it.
If it proved a bad move I could always blame it on my companion’s high standards and if not, I could quite legitimately claim a stroke of genius on my part.
My companion seemed impressed with the little Italian’s quaint and understated exterior as we pulled up outside.
And although surprised with how busy the restaurant was for a week night (there literally wasn’t a single table to spare), we were both encouraged by the lively buzz of the place, and the modern and chic-looking bar area just off the main restaurant.
After a short wait we were sitting at our table looking over the menu.
The selection again was very impressive, with a great range of steaks, fish and pasta dishes to choose from along with pizzas.
To start, I ordered baked goat’s cheese, served with a balsamic dressing and pine kernels.
There can be very few things in life more satisfying than warm cheese and I really wasn’t disappointed here.
Deliciously gooey and with a powerful flavour, the cheese worked very well with the pine kernels in a dish that was a triumph in its simplicity.
My companion ordered a dainty-sounding salad with strips of smoked chicken breast, toasted Italian bread and a spicy tabasco mayonnaise.
While not quite as wonderful as my own starter, the chicken had a fabulous flavour and the salad was fresh and crisp.
The only criticism, if you can call it that, was that the portion was rather large for a starter.
Starters are all priced around the £5 mark.
Selecting out main courses proved almost as difficult as picking where we going to eat in the first place.
But after quite some time, and with a little advice from our waitress, we managed to make a decision.
I ordered pan fried lamb, with cajun breadcrumbs and an orange and cointreau sauce.
Presented beautifully, the lamb was lean and tender and combined brilliantly with the breadcrumbs and sauce to make a dish absolutely packed with huge flavours. The addition of the spinach also worked really well.
My companion ordered a fillet steak, pan fried with brandy and served in a peppercorn and red wine sauce.
The huge hunk of meat that arrived could have been a bit over-facing but the steak was cooked to absolute perfection and was proclaimed one of the best my companion had eaten in a very long time.
The sauce was rich and tasty with a pleasing little kick from the peppercorns and I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed there wasn’t more of the dish leftover for me to finish.
As side dishes, we ordered some chips, which were crisp and tasty, and some peas served in a tomato sauce.
There’s also a huge choice of pizzas as well as some fish and pasta dishes so there should be something for everyone. Main courses vary from around £8 to £17.
With just enough room left to try some desserts, I ordered a chocolate ice cream filled with zabaglione and dusted with chocolate.
It wasn’t quite as rich as I’d hoped for and was really just a big ball of ice cream but it was still a pleasant enough end to a good meal.
My companion ordered a banoffee pie which was deliciously sweet and creamy, with a melt-in-the-mouth, buttery biscuit base and which I couldn’t resist sampling a good-sized chunk of myself.
Along with a crisp and fruity bottle of rose, the bill came to just over £75 – not the cheapest for an out-of-town place but still very reasonable.
And the whole fabulous meal left me free to bask in the praise of my companion, proving that sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.
La Bella Vita, 17 Main Street, Garforth, Leeds LS25 1DS
Opening times: 6pm-late Mon Fri, 5.30pm-late Sat, 1pm-6pm Sunday
Telephone: 0113 287 2244
HHHHH EXCELLENT HHHH VERY GOOD HHH GOOD HH AVERAGE H POOR