My first restaurant visit since lockdown

Jogging bottoms have their allure – their comfort, their growing familiarity as they remain unwashed for more days than would be considered polite in the pre-lockdown world.

But the appeal of sloth and slobbery eventually weakens as one day of sameness merges into a week which merges into a month which merges into a quarter of a year.

We cobble together home meals or order take-aways and resign ourselves to the same surroundings and routines, missing things that were mundane before Covid-19 changed our lives irrevocably and tragically ended the lives of tens of thousands of people less fortunate than we.

The opening of pubs and restaurants on Saturday sparked mixed feelings.

Nervousness, certainly, because caution can become a stifling habit – with good reason when the risks are real and grave.

But also excitement and impatience for our existences to regain some sort of pre-lockdown normality.

Excitement and impatience won and, late on Saturday afternoon, I bathed and put on clothes I hadn’t worn for months and headed with my family to Laghi’s Deli.

Laghi's Deli

It’s a place I adore – relaxed, friendly and serving wonderful Italian dishes that are well-crafted and based on exceptionally good ingredients.

Plus I was absolutely confident that its owner, the charming and passionate Luca Laghi, who’s a doctor, would get right the restaurant’s precautions.

Such confidence was well-founded.

Tables were spaced safely apart. Hand sanitiser was available. Serving staff were masked. Menus were throw-away.

But the place remained welcoming and, despite a smaller number of customers, was buzzing.

It was great to shout hello to Ann and Irene from Opus who were on another table.

The menu and wine list are shorter than normal but still possesses plenty of interest and temptations.

Laghi's Deli

Caprese was a gorgeously pretty dish that ate very well indeed – creamy buffalo mozzarella, zingy tomatoes of various colours, refreshing basil gel and crisp slivers of bread.

Elsewhere on the table purple asparagus came with crisp parmesan chips, a perfectly poached egg and a generous amount of shaved black truffles.

Laghi's Deli

Meanwhile, a small mountain of deep-fried squid, king prawns, sprat and vegetables was shared amid many appreciative noises.

Laghi’s ragu is something I’d massively missed in the past few months.

The version currently being served is based on duck as is every bit as marvellous as I’d hoped – the duck flesh moist and flavoursome.

Smoked pecorino cheese and crisp shards of duck skin added extra flavour and texture.

Laghi's Deli

And all this served with the silkiest home-made pappardelle.

Three of my group of four chose this dish, whilst the fourth ate a substantial but refined dish of lamb, smoked mash and carrots in an aromatic mint and rosemary sauce.

Afterwards, home-made tiramisu – punchy with lots of coffee, indulgent with lots of cream – delighted my sons.

Laghi's Deli

I ate lemon and strawberry bavarese – a sort of more solid panna cotta.

The gently creamy mound was topped with a thin layer of jelly and served with a strawberry sauce freshened with grated lemon.

Like the previous dishes, it was a triumph.

Laghi's Deli

This was two hours of absolute pleasure, any initial unease giving way to delight that we were finally eating out again.

To say that our restaurants have had a difficult year is a bit of an understatement.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be doing my best to support those that I love and respect.

Finally, those jogging bottoms are destined for a spin in the washing machine.

Laghi’s Deli

22-24 lslington Row, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1LD. 0121 455 0660.

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