They say that first impressions really do count.
But after driving through a dark industrial complex on the outskirts of Leeds we were certainly more than delighted to see the welcoming twinkle of lights from Buon Apps.
The Italian restaurant has been described as one of Otley’s best kept secrets – and secret it most certainly is.
At one point during the relatively gloomy drive through the darkened Wharfebank Business Centre my dining partner questioned whether we had made the right turn.
It seemed like an endless trundle through a variety of car parks taking in the sights of offices and factories.
Thankfully there were signs throughout the car park leading us to the restaurant which reassured us we were on the right path.
But we couldn’t help but feel as though we had taken a wrong turn as we drove through the complex of former mill buildings.
And then like a small beacon, nestled away in the middle of the estate, we could see the Italian restaurant.
As we arrived my dining partner and I wondered whether we would be the only diners who decided to brave the chilly weather for a midweek dinner.
But thankfully to our surprise Buon Apps was bustling with diners and any of our initial fears and worries were swiftly dismissed.
I think if we had arrived ten minutes later then we might have struggled for a table without having to pre-book.
Buon Apps, which is roughly translated to “enjoy your meal”, has managed to carve a reputation as an authentic Italian restaurant.
And its success has been celebrated in past Oliver Awards.
The building is certainly impressive to look at and retains the character of the former mills it used to house.
The stone walls are exposed and the giant windows, which stretch from the ceiling to the floor, are striking.
My dining partner and I were taken up a flight of stairs to the small main dining room which was packed with couples and two groups.
Modern artwork, including some rather tasty looking food photographs, adorned the walls and we were sat in front of eye-catching wall of wine bottles.
The fairy lights around the windows certainly added to the cosy homely feel of the restaurant and the split level layout almost adds an air of exclusivity.
My dining partner said it felt as though we were members of our very own secret dining club.
Tucked away around the corner is another small dining room but it did not seem to be in use during our visit.
As we perused through the extensive menu we soon put our navigational issues behind us.
According to Buon App’s website, owners Alessandro and Elena Sofia have been bringing the secrets of their family recipes to guests from across the region to create a taste of their childhood for over a decade.
And there were certainly plenty of authentic Italian dishes to whet our appetites from the Buon Apps menu.
These included a delicious sounding selection of homemade pizzas and a variety of pasta dishes.
We looked through the starters which included homemade garlic pizza bread, bruschetta and an oven-baked portabello mushroom.
My dining partner settled for the golden fried calamari and courgettes which came served with a garlic mayonnaise dip (£8.95).
She was impressed with the size of the portion which came with a sheet of parchment on her dish to soak up any excess oil from the crisp calamari rings.
I chose the homemade fish cake which came served with mixed leaves and a sweet chilli dip (£7.95).
The fish cake was golden and crisp on the outside and the flakes of fish were delicately cooked.
The sweet chilli dip helped to add an extra kick of flavour to the dish.
For her main course my dining partner opted for the pan fried fillet of sea bass pan which was priced at £15.50.
The beautifully cooked piece of fish came served with an accompaniment of cherry tomatoes. The dish looked divine and my dining partner was impressed with her choice.
She said the sea bass was delicate and cooked to perfection.
I decided to sample the pan fried veal escalope priced at £15.
The veal came served with field mushrooms in a garlic and cream sauce accompanied by a portion of roast potatoes.
The two pieces of veal were well seasoned and the creamy sauce was fantastically seasoned.
The roast potatoes were among some of the best I have ever tasted.
But the only thing that let the dish down was there were far too many of them.
It pained me to leave three potatoes on the side of my plate as the waiter cleared our dishes away.
Not to be beaten we decided it would be wise to save space for dessert – and it was certainly worth the vegetable sacrifice.
My dining partner settled for the warm chocolate fudge cake which came served with vanilla ice cream.
The thick slice of chocolate cake was moist and my dining partner soon devoured the dish.
I decided to sample the tiramisu and it did not disappoint.
The fine combination of Italian coffee, chocolate, fresh cream and mascarpone was divine.
And the presentation of it in two small dishes – the other for the ice cream – was certainly pleasing on the eye.
Overall our bill came to a very reasonable £63.60 which also included a glass of apple juice and a glass of strawberry juice.
Now Oliver is just hoping that he hasn’t let the cat out of the bag for Otley’s very own hidden gem.
Address: Wharferbank Business Park, Ilkley Road, Otley, LS21 3JP.
Times: Tue - Thur & Sat noon - 2.30pm, 5pm late; Fri 9.30am-2.30pm, 5pm to late.
Tel: 01943 468 458