What’s Marco Pierre White’s new restaurant like?

Marco Pierre White’s pronouncements about ‘discerning diners’ and ‘aspirational famlies’ on the website of his latest Birmingham restaurant Bardolino didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Especially after a ghastly meal at another of his outlets in the city, his Chophouse.
Thus I approached his new gaff with a sense of pessimism and gloom that was almost Beckettian in its depth.
Oh dear. How wrong I was to be such a misery guts.
Bardolino was really rather good.

The decor

The new place occupies a light and airy space at the foot of The Cube and overlooks a pimped-up stretch of canal.
The decor is dominated by wood and tiles, with light fittings that look merely functional but were no doubt very expensive.

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There are little bottles of good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the bare-topped tables alongside pots of fragrant basil.
It’s a stylish but totally unfussy space.

The service

OK, it was all a bit ‘how are you guys doing?’ in its manufactured enthusiasm and the staff were clearly learning on the job at a restaurant that opened only this week, but service was fine.
Staff were charming and attentive and dishes and drinks appeared in a timely fashion.
There were attempts at up-selling, which was ever so slightly irritating.

The food and drink

The short menu at Bardolino – it’s the name of the town in which MPW’s mother was born, by the way – is dominated by pizza and pasta.
There are salads, too. And side dishes. And, of course, desserts.

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My companion and I began with a shared platter called the Monte Cristo.
A board arrived with pleasant focaccio, refreshing tomato bruschetta, a tangy caponata, mozzarella that had a great favour but was a touch firm, good crushed avocado and slivers of a cheese called zarpellon that had the umami oomph and crystals of good Parmesan.
At £10, this was a good value and satisfying starter.

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Next for me was a Florentina pizza about which I will enthuse.
The base was thin, crisp at the edges, very slightly scorched in a good way and came with an understated, simple but pleasing topping of spinach, stringy mozzarella, a smudge of tomato paste and a nicely judged fried egg.
This was the best pizza I’ve eaten in Birmingham, I think.
Opposite a superfood salad comprising sugar snap peas, avocado, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, various seeds, rather to many green beans and smoked chicken was consumed with equal enthusiasm.

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Afterwards we shared afogato – that lovely Italian combo of ice cream (in this case very good ice cream) with espresso.
There are plenty of prosecco-based cocktails, reasonably priced wines, decent beers and lots of soft drinks to choose from.
The Charlie Wells Tripple Hopped IPA I drank was a very pleasant beer.

Need to know

Pizzas and pasta dishes are priced between £8 and £9.50.
The salads are priced at up to £12.50.
Desserts cost between £4.50 and £6.
Wine kicks in at £14.95 a bottle.
There’s a kids’ menu and a brunch menu.
Bardolino opens at 8am. Check the website for closing times because they vary.

Bardolino
The Cube, Birmingham B1 1RN. 0121 634 3433.
www.mpwrestaurants.co.uk/restaurants/bardolino-birmingham/