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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Cube, Birmingham B1 1RN. 0121 634 3433.