There is no doubt as to who is the main man behind this brand spanking new dining destination on Parliament Street in the booming heart of Harrogate.
The evidence isn’t just in the name; it’s in the instantly recognisable smiling face of TV chef Gino D’Acampo, captured with his celebrity pals in hundreds of framed black-and-white photographs. Then there are Gino’s personal mission statements and anecdotes throughout the menu, elaborating on his philosophy of “real Italian food as it should be”.
The new Gino D’Acampo – My Restaurant (love the “My” – just in case you were in any doubt) makes the branding of Jamie’s Italian across the road looks distinctly restrained.
Perhaps it shouldn’t work, but it does. This new Gino’s is instantly, insistently stylish and seductive. Judging by the crowds, the chatter and the excitement surrounding the place since it opened early last month, it is a most welcome addition to Harrogate’s ever-burgeoning restaurant scene.
The site, opposite the old Winter Gardens (now Wetherspoons), has been through several incarnations, most recently, the swish Restaurant Bar and Grill, owned by the same company behind this venture. Clearly, a great deal of money and thought has been put into this rebrand. Outside, aquamarine and white striped canopies are set against a matt black fascia. Both jaunty and chic, very Italian. Step inside to a sleek reception area (and bookstore) where equally sleek, immaculately groomed front-of-house staff meet and greet. We had booked, fortunately.
Venturing further within, an open kitchen flanks a large ground floor dining room, classy and atmospheric, but not too dark, with lamps suspended over each table.
There’s a touch of classic Italian style to staff dress. Male and female waiters wear tight blue shirts and beige chinos with brown leather belts. Male managers wear skinny tailored wool blazers, elegant shoes and mysterious earpieces.
All rather fascinating, but it’s upstairs where the real magic lies. A chic retro-style games room with red mini pool table and table football leads through to this venue’s “It” space – an open-air Prosecco Bar and dining area, with aqua leather seating, neon signs and a Wimbledon-style retractable roof, to thwart Harrogate’s inevitable rainfall. This is decidedly glamorous.
Aperitivo time is 4-6.30pm daily, when cicchetti or small snacks are served free with drinks. We had prosecco with Grissini and Parma Ham. Delicious.
On to the menu proper. As a starter, my dining partner chose Chicken Liver Pate with mustard fruits and toasted ciabatta (£6.50). A splash of Marsala lifted it way above the run-of-the-mill.
My Crispy Cod Bruschetta (£7.25), was pieces of crumbed cod on toasted ciabatta with a lemon mayonnaise – flaky-soft and moreish. I followed with a main of Linguine with Lobster (£21), cooked with cherry tomatoes, white wine, garlic, chilli and parsley. Each ingredient sang, and combined to enhance the succulent, delicate freshness of the lobster and perfectly cooked pasta.
My partner’s main of Crispy Chicken Breast stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto (£15.50), was a huge piece of perfectly cooked chicken flattened in a light coating. It was simple, flavoursome, but more garnish would add interest to the eye.
We also had side dishes of Spicy Spinach (£3.75) and, on our waiter’s recommendation, Friarielli (£3.75), a Neapolitan dish, salty and not unlike spinach, but intriguingly tasty. Service, incidentally, was extremely attentive, possibly, on occasion, excessively so. Not every diner would find that a fault, of course.
For dessert, my partner chose Affogato (amaretti, espresso and vanilla ice cream, £4.50), which was small, light and simple. I opted for the Cheese Board, showcasing gorgonzola, buffalo ricotta and pecorino sardo, with truffle honey, crostini, walnuts and mustard fruits (£8). We enjoyed every last piece.
We drank a bottle of Venetian Pinot Grigio (£22), a fair price for a decent, crisp, lightly aromatic wine .
The total bill was £107, representing excellent value. Celebrity chain restaurants are prey to rather sneery disapproval from some food critics who forget that, until fairly recent times, towns such as Harrogate could offer little more to mid-price, family-oriented diners than a trusty Pizza Hut and a rather hit-and-miss selection of independent restaurants.
Standards have lifted since those days, and that, in part, has been thanks to the likes of Pizza Express, Carluccio’s, Jamie’s and now Gino’s. Gino D’Acampo – My Restaurant Harrogate is a complete hospitality experience, with well-prepared, beautifully presented, classic Italian cooking at its heart. And frankly, it’s fantastico.
Address: 46-48 Parliament Street, Harrogate, HG1 2RL
Opening times: Mon to Sat 12noon-11pm; Sun 12noon-10.30pm
Website: http://ginodacampo restaurants.com/myrestaurant/myrestaurants/harrogate
Telephone: 01423 705777