Piccolino is one of those perennial ‘must try it one day’ dining spots that I have always meant to pop into, but never quite got round to it.
So, when I finally decided to stop by for a spot of lunch, my experience left me wondering why on earth I’d waited so long.
Situated at the heart of Leeds city centre, in the bustling Park Row - more known for being the city’s banking quarter - this Italian eatery, which is part of a chain of higher end dining spots which includes Restaurant Bar and Grill in City Square, has certainly got a lively location.
We had pre-booked the day before, even though we were coming on a weekday. This was mostly because I had a tight schedule, and was looking for an early-bird lunch ahead of a work meeting.
I knew I was being very ambitious in hoping to be done within the exactly 60 minutes (plus parking time) that I had allowed myself.
My companion and I walked into the spacious, airy dining area - decorated in neutral dark reds and browns - at just before midday and were immediately greeted by the smiling Maitre D.
We were, unsurprisingly, the first lunchtime customers, but the restaurant started filling up quite quickly.
We were quickly shown to our seats and the main menu was handed to us by a smiling waitress who remained attentive, pleasant and helpful throughout our visit.
The location of the restaurant, and its big wide windows, allows diners to enjoy a bit of people watching, adding to an already pleasant view and ambience.
We opted to eat from the additional ‘Quick Lunch’ menu, which helpfully offers a one-or two course option for £10 or £15 respectively.
Lunch is served from midday to 5pm, so plenty of scope for early birds and late lunchers alike.
With seven starter options and eight mains, I thought this was a pleasingly varied choice for the express lunchtime diner.
Hearty sounding starters such as vine tomato soup and mushroom risotto were tempting, but I opted for the goat’s cheese and broad bean bruschetta and my dining partner for the chilli and lemon prawn bruschetta.
The goat’s cheese was creamy and delicious, and although I didn’t take immediately to the broad beans, the waves of fresh, earthy, slightly herby flavour increased with each mouthful and I enjoyed the combination with the crispy ciabatta bread.
My partner’s prawn bruschetta went down very well, and he especially loved the buttery lemon sauce that accompanied the fat, juicy, perfectly cooked prawns. I stole a bite and found the dish delightful, even better than my own starter.
Main course options included Italian staples such as Parma ham salad, a decent pasta selection and even flash grilled steak.
But I went for the ‘branzino’, a sea bass fillet which was served with sautéed potatoes, capers and olives.
Essentially a posh Italian fish and chips dish, I absolutely loved it.
The fish had gorgeous crispy skin and was perfectly cooked.
The potatoes were well seasoned and crispy, and the olives and capers added that vital Mediterranean tang.
The whole dish was light and fresh. A real winner.
My partner opted for the chicken escalope with peperonata, an Italian ratatouille made with tomato, peppers and a hint of chilli. My dining partner was in raptures about the flattened, perfectly grilled chicken breast and the deep, earthy, stew-like accompaniment,
Service was exceptional, and - a major plus-point - we had polished off both courses well within the hour.
Piccolino is not a cheap lunch by any means, but I didn’t mind paying £35 - which included a soft drink each - for a fantastic overall experience.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5