WITH so many Italian eateries dotted around Leeds city centre and its suburbs, a restaurant must provide diners with quality food and good service to achieve any sort of longevity.
Unfortunately, Il Migliore failed in both departments, with some dishes that were barely edible and service so poor that we didn’t stay for dessert – not something that often happens to Oliver.
The outcome is particularly disappointing as the restaurant has achieved some decent online reviews since it opened in Calverley Bridge, on the outskirts of Horsforth, last year.
But our experience was far from enjoyable and in fact bordered on the unpleasant, with Il Migliore now attaining the dubious honour of being one of the worst restaurants I have ever been to.
But our first impressions were good. Il Migliore is located slightly off the beaten track in a stone building dating back to the early 20th century, which was formerly the home of French restaurant Paris.
It’s the kind of area you wouldn’t really expect to find a restaurant, set back from the outer ring road in between Horsforth and Calverley, just behind an industrial estate and next to a railway line.
The square building stands at the side of a fairly wide road and, surrounded by empty land, looks a bit cold and imposing from the outside. Thankfully, the interior of the restaurant is much more inviting.
Walking into the restaurant, you are faced with a lounge area to your left, with a cosy-looking fire and several big armchairs, and a long bar to your right.
The decor seems to combine old with new, with red brick walls and wooden beams reflecting the building’s past; and leather and chrome bar stools and shiny black counters to highlight a new chapter.
Through the narrow bar area, the venue opens out into an airy, conservatory-style dining space, with a mezzanine at the back containing one dining table for a large party and a white piano.
We were seated just next to the mezzanine, at a table with black leather chairs and minimal decorations – simply white tablecloths and cutlery.
The walls are designed with black-and-white patterned wallpaper which reminded me of Etch-a-Sketch doodlings, and the sparkly, crystal-effect chandeliers on the ceiling are another stand-out feature.
In terms of the menu, Il Migliore offers the standard range of Italian cuisine – pizzas, pastas, steaks, chicken dishes and a variety of starters.
At the beginning, the staff looked after us reasonably well. We ordered our drinks, browsed the menu, and placed our orders.– but it all went dramatically downhill from the main course onwards.
To start, I chose the king scallops in a spicy tomato sauce (£7.95), while my dining partner picked the mixed salad with smoked salmon and prawns (£6.95).
After an incredibly short wait, the dishes were brought to the table – and they were fairly sizeable.
My dish was served with a salad which had seen better days and was falling off the plate, while my dining partner’s salad, despite being a main part of his meal, was no better.
In fact, it was the moment that I bit into one of the soft, mushy tomatoes that I realised this probably wasn’t going to be the best meal in the world.
The rest of the starter did not fare much better – although the scallops were juicy and well-cooked, the sauce was hot rather than spicy and was extremely bland.
My dining partner’s prawns were also bland and flavourless – which turned out to be a running theme of the night – and lying underneath the top layer of salmon was a pile of grey, slimy skin.
So far, not so good, but we were desperately hoping the main courses would reveal something positive.
To an extent, they did. My dining partner ordered a medium rare rump steak, served with roast vegetables, potatoes and a blue cheese sauce (£15.25, plus £1.50 for the sauce), while I chose the the Kiev Calzone, with mozzarella, chicken, garlic butter and tomato sauce (£9.25).
The steak arrived perfectly cooked and it tasted succulent and juicy; making it the best part of the meal by a country mile.
The sauce actually had plenty of flavour and was a good accompaniment – although the vegetables were soggy and bland.
By contrast, the calzone was virtually inedible. Soggy, tasteless dough covering a grey, sludgy filling which had no chicken flavour whatsoever but plenty of garlic to compensate. After struggling through the first half, I passed it to my partner. He tasted it but immediately gave up, he found it so unpleasant.
We remained hopeful that dessert would mark an upturn in our fortunes. However, dessert wasn’t to be.
After our main courses were cleared, we sat and waited for one of the staff to bring us a dessert menu.
And we waited and waited, before finally losing patience after 25 minutes.
The staff – two different men and one young lady had served us in the time we had been there – bustled around other tables and we honestly wondered whether we had become invisible.
In the end, we had to ask the young waitress to bring us a menu, and her reaction to our request seemed to be one of surprise mixed with annoyance.
She came back with the cheap-looking plastic menus and then went off again.
She chatted to the table next door for around 10 minutes, not even glancing at us once in that time, and then disappeared back into the kitchen.
By this time, we’d had enough – it was 35 minutes after our plates had been cleared, and still no dessert was in sight. We retrieved our coats on and headed to the bar to pay, where the waiter looked neither surprised nor bothered to see us standing there ready to leave as quickly as possible.
Just as we were leaving, the young waitress emerged from the kitchen with the dessert order for the next door table – and not a flicker of acknowledgement for us in her eyes. Simply charming.
I wish I could at least say the value for money was good – but it wasn’t, with the bill coming to a total of £51.
Based on the quality of the food served to us, it was all overpriced with the exception of the steak.
But although our experience was far from a pleasant one, it would be a lie to say the restaurant had no potential.
With a bit of improvement, some of the dishes might have been good; and the decor and atmosphere certainly had some positive qualities. But the questionable taste and appearance of most of our food and, particularly, the absolutely appalling service, really let it down on this occasion.
Address: Calverley Bridge, Calverley Lane, Horsforth, Leeds, LS13 1NP
Opening times: Mon to Fri 11.30am until 2:30pm and 5.30pm until 10pm; Sat 5.30pm until 11pm; Sun 12pm until 9pm.
Tel: 0113 258 4300
SERVICE .................................. *
***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR