When it comes to Italian restaurants Leeds certainly has more than its fair share, with offerings endorsed by such notable culinary names as Jamie Oliver, Antonio Carluccio and Gino D’Acampo (although not Marco Pierre White anymore, unfortunately); independents catering to every budget (big and modest); and the all so familiar chains seen on many British high streets. Given the level of competition, it would be a brave move for any new restaurant to enter the fray, but this is exactly what ASK Italian has done following its recent opening in the city centre. The early indications, however, are that this courage is not without foundation.
The first impression after walking through the doors is positive. If the lack of free tables are anything to go by, ASK Italian’s arrival in Leeds has already generated quite the buzz. Despite being so busy, the staff were highly attentive and knowledgeable, a clear indication that plenty of pre-opening groundwork took place to ensure everyone was able to hit the ground running.
As well as the well-trained staff, ASK Italian’s design team obviously went all out to firmly plant their flag in the sand and proudly announce their presence to Leeds’ restaurant scene. Featuring a hand-crafted flower wall and a hand painted mural, apparently a nod to the floral carpets of Spello, the Italian town which inspired the design, the new restaurant has strived to bring the al-fresco dining experience inside. To further develop the theme, an ‘indoor courtyard’ has been created with a pergola featuring climbing greenery and festoon lighting.
As impressive though it may be, no Italian restaurant can survive on the strength of its decor or the quality of its staff alone, as the proof of the pasta will always be in the eating. Thankfully ASK Italian doesn’t disappoint in this regard either.
Following a promising start in the shape of one of ASK Italian’s signature Antipasto boards, the Antipasto Classico featuring tasty Milano salami and coppa ham, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, rocket salad and rosemary & sea salt bread with smoked chilli jelly and olive tapenade, we took the decision to forego any additional starters and jump straight to our mains.
For those of a less meaty persuasion, the Aragosta E Gamberoni was more delicately flavoured but none the worse for it, proving a delightful marriage of lobster and king prawns in a creamy tomato sauce that was was lent a kick thanks to a subtle hint of chilli. Adorned with a large king prawn in its shell, this was yet another dish that suggests ASK Italian is going to be a welcome addition to Leeds’ already impressive Italian restaurant portfolio.