Just one step inside Vivido and diners are instantly transported from a grey and rainy Harrogate town centre into the warm, airy brightness and festival atmosphere of a sunny Mediterranean holiday.
The restaurant is a Harrogate landmark, and its orange and black sign and jutting wall of arched white-framed windows, halfway up busy town centre thoroughfare Cheltenham Crescent, is a familiar sight to locals and visitors alike.
It’s large and roomy and those windows let in a lot of light, whatever the weather.
Its position, within five minutes of both the High Street shops and the conference centre on King’s Road, means that it’s a popular choice, and fortunately Vivido is big enough to welcome all comers without feeling overly crowded or busy. Large parties are welcome.
It’s open seven days a week from 12, which means that there is always a friendly place to go for a bite in Harrogate.
We arrived early at lunchtime and, although there was just one other pair of diners already seated, the Euro-pop music (very holiday) and the occasional breakout of song from the avuncular, cheery waiters ensured a laid-back, lively, pleasant atmosphere.
We could have had our pick of tables and were encouraged towards a prime location in the window, which I appreciated.
Many restaurants these days seem to want to stick those who haven’t booked in an inconvenient corner near the loos, as if they are saving their best tables for passing royalty (of course, without a Reserved sign in sight).
There’s none of that at Vivido (although, actually, I don’t believe there is a bad table in the place anyway).
The interior is well done, especially considering the open nature of the space. Huge canvases of Warhol Marilyns decorate the walls, bringing bright accent colour and pulling together the contemporary decor of shining brown wooden floors, large green-leaved plants and stylish white furniture (I especially like the large semi-circular banquette booths with tubular tonal leather seating – perfect in the day for young families and at night for small parties of grown-ups).
The restaurant filled up over the next hour with an eclectic mix of customers. Vivido is particularly popular with families, with a children’s menu and a wide selection of dishes that all ages and tastes will enjoy, but it’s large enough to make sure that all can dine and enjoy themselves in relative peace.
On to the food and drink. We ordered a bottle of mineral water and two large glasses of Pinot Grigio (£5.25 each) and then pondered the choice.
We could have had garlic bread (£4.25), bruschetta al pomodoro (£4.95) or chicken liver pate with mango chutney and toasted bread (£6.25), but I chose from the daily lunchtime specials menu (£11.95 for two courses) and had the king scallops. They were beautifully cooked but there was too much oil, butter and breadcrumbs for my taste, especially as a lunchtime starter.
My fellow diner opted for the pan-fried liver seared in butter (also on the specials menu) and again this was tasty and cooked to perfection, but with a little too much buttery sauce.
We both felt we could have done with bread to mop it up, but this was not offered, so we asked for it.
When it came, the bread was heavenly, another reason why it should be brought out or at least offered right from the start.
We also had to ask for table water. Were we actually dining on holiday somewhere in the Med, bread and water would be brought out routinely to all diners soon after arrival, and it’s becoming common practice in the UK too.
I feel it should have be happening at Vivido, although this might have been an early-start oversight.
My main course, also a special, was lobster ravioli, which was delicious, the pasta perfectly cooked, in a light tomato-creamy sauce.
The side of spinach (£2.95) was a welcome healthy side dish offering. My dining partner chose vitello marsalo, pan-fried veal escalope with porcini mushrooms and marsala sauce (£15.95) which was well cooked, succulent and tender, with a side of rosemary potatoes (£2.95).
The portion sizes are spot-on, neither too large nor too small, and the presentation is good.
Wine prices range from a very reasonable £14.95 for a bottle of Pinot Grigio to £34.95 for a French Sancerre and £49.95 for an Italian Amarone. There are great special offers, including, at the time of writing, a special early bird menu of two courses with glass of wine until 7pm, except Saturdays and special event days,
All desserts are £4.95 and there’s a lovely selection, based around traditional Italian desserts. Ice cream is a popular choice. I went for Coffee, Chocolate and Hazelnut Italian Pudding, which was actually like a mousse, impressive layers in a large glass, with cream on top.
My partner picked the lemon meringue pie, declared very good indeed, and we both had coffees.
The total bill came to £89.95, which surprised me a little, considering that I had opted for the £11.95 special, and I was then surprised to see that a 10 per cent service charge had been added.
I didn’t query it, but I don’t think this is acceptable for a table of two lunchtime diners. Hence it gets just two stars for service.
But I will be back to Vivido. It’s decent, traditional Italian food in a relaxed, cheery atmosphere.
It welcomes all, and especially at this time of year, it’s got the feel-good factor.
Address: 16 Cheltenham Crescent, Harrogate HG1 1DH
Tel: 01423 566453
Opening times: Mon-Thu noon-10.30pm, Fri-Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10pm