Buon Apps came as a complete surprise to me.
I have been a fairly frequent Otley visitor for years, and have friends there, yet I had never heard of it until I searched on the internet for restaurants of note in the town.
This may be because Buon Apps is not actually in Otley town centre, but on the outskirts, in the Wharfedale Business Centre, a converted mill complex that is now home to an eclectic mix of businesses from office suppliers to a theatre company (that’s Otley for you).
My companion, who had been before but never seen fit to enlighten me, took the lead in locating it, turning down the drive off Ilkley Road, until, sure enough, there it was, within the mill courtyard, a separate, sturdy stone building, intriguing and inviting.
Inside did not disappoint – exposed stone walls, tall arched windows and judicious use of artwork. With medium oak polished wood flooring and dining tables adorned with shining glassware and white napkins, this is a pleasing blend of the contemporary and the traditional.
It was a Friday evening and we had booked, fortunately, as it turned out, because the small upstairs restaurant soon filled with diners, including couples, families and friends meeting early doors.
There were several smartly dressed young waiting staff, all charming and professional, but without that irritating faux-attentiveness that has become the norm in so many restaurants these days.
I confess, as a non Italian speaker, I find the name Buon Apps confusing. Google Translate gives me “good apps” but I suspect it’s nothing to do with mobile phone applications. “Enjoy your food” was one description I read; “good appetite”, perhaps?
Whatever it means, Buon Apps aims to bring “the authentic taste of Italy in the heart of Yorkshire”, serving serving regional specialities from rustic pasta dishes to sophisticated classic meat dishes.
It was opened in 2003 by Alessandro and Elena Sofia, who met soon after Alessandro landed in the UK. Both have been infused with traditional Italian cooking since childhood. Alessandro is from Rome, and as a youngster worked in the bar-restaurant his parents ran for 45 years. Elena grew up in Leicestershire where her Italian father cooked dishes learned from his own childhood in Rome.
There is a big family get-together appeal to these dishes – a taste of sunshine, simple, vibrant, hearty, prepared with love and care.
I started with Bruschetta al pomodoro (£7.50) from the set menu (three courses for £18.95) which runs 5-6.30pm on a Friday (times vary). Three slices of toasted Italian bread liberally doused with quartered tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves, oregano, black pepper and olive oil. It was deliciously fresh, sweet and lightly tangy – perfect, although it could have served two.
My dining companion chose Caprese Classica, a salad consisting of a huge ball of Buffalo mozzarella adorned with vine tomatoes, rocket and olive oil. Simplicity and taste on a plate, but again, a substantial portion.
My main was Pollo alla Perugina (£14.95, but see set menu price), a hunk of pan-fried chicken breast with pancetta, capers, anchovies, sage and white wine served with cubes of roasted vegetables. It was beautifully cooked and succulent, and the sauce was delicate and fragrant. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t filled up on so many tomatoes.
My companion chose the Grigliata di Pesce (£25) from the specials Fish on Friday menu. This was a huge platter of chargrilled seabass, hake, and king prawns, decadently topped with three langoustines and served on a bed of greens with a lemon sauce. I couldn’t help but wonder if so much food was intended for just one person, but it was all consumed and enjoyed remarkably rapidly.
If all that wasn’t enough, we had sides of steamed spinach (£4.35) and Italian potatoes (£3.50), and a bottle of more than acceptable Sauvignon £22.95). Alcohol content of wines is helpfully noted on the menu.
Both desserts were delicious and deserved full attention from far less full tummies. I chose Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding with ice cream (£6.50), a rich blend with orange, Grand Marnier , cinnamon and raisins. My companion had Brulee al Lampone (£6.50), flavoured with Chambord Liqueur and orange. They were too delicious not to finish, although by now we were uncomfortably full. The total bill came to £93.25, and we added service to that.
I note that Buon Apps is closed except for private parties on a Sunday, which is a great shame. This was a delightful experience of lovingly cooked, tasty Italian food, served by pleasant staff in a beautiful dining space. I certainly intend to come again (though not for three courses at those portions). But Buon Apps is heartily recommended.
Address: Wharfebank Business Centre, Ilkley Road, Otley, LS21 3JP
Phone: 01943 468 458
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12-2.30pm and 5pm-late; Sunday and Monday, closed except for special occasions and private parties