Restaurant review - Piccolino, Alderley Edge
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 10:08 20 April 2016
This highly popular Italian restaurant chain has come to Alderley Edge - about time too, says reviewer Ray King
Since the launch of the original in Knutsford in 1999, Piccolino has become one of the most successful restaurant brands in the country with 22 branches from York to Virginia Water. Astonishingly, perhaps, it has taken more than 15 years to travel five miles across the apex of Cheshire’s ‘Golden Triangle’ and land in its natural habitat, Alderley Edge.
It has now done so, however in spectacular fashion and I use the terms ‘spectacular’ and ‘fashion’ deliberately. For this Piccolino, with its 250 covers, 20-metre long open kitchen with wood-fired ovens and food bar, wine boutique complete with ladder, island cocktail bar and outside terrace with fully retractable roof is designed to be the all-day, every day, all-seasons haunt of the real extroverts of Cheshire. This is style on the grand scale.
Today’s Piccolino is Italian through and through: the expansive menu is preceded by an impressive list of food sources, many from the regions of Italy. In Alderley Edge they even fly the green, white and red tricolore above the restaurant. But I seem to recall that at the start, the then latest creation of those legendary culinary innovators, Derek and the late Edwina Lilley, was, like Est Est Est before it, styled Mediterranean rather than Italian in a bid to break away from the tired stereotype of gingham tablecloths, straw-covered Chianti flasks, plastic greenery and fading photographs of old Juventus footballers. But it’s now uber-cool to be Italian again, a culinary risorgimento dare one say it in this company, that owes a little, perhaps, to the brio of the San Carlo group?
That image of the old trattoria is on another planet from the chi-chi pizzazz of Piccolino’s latest incarnation, an eye-popping exercise in bleached and limed wood, flecked white marble surfaces and cool duck egg blue leather upholstery. Very stylish. We studied the menu over a plate of gratis antipasti and glasses of Verdicchio (£24 the bottle) while perched on stools at the bar in a setting that looked for all the world like the deck of a cruise liner. The fare is authentic and inviting and the enthusiastic staff are quite obviously proud of it.
Mrs K began with a generous starter portion of crab-filled ravioli luxuriating in lemon and shellfish butter sauce lifted by a subtle spike of chilli (£9.50). Molto bene! She followed with a main course of line-caught, char-grilled swordfish with salmoriglio sauce, a Sicilian classic made from olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley, and oregano (£18). Swordfish is a tricky ingredient, prone to dry out if overcooked even for a minute or so, but this was perfect: moist and flavoursome and the vibrancy of the sauce made a perfect marriage.
Both my starter and main came from the day’s list of specials. I opened with a quintet of fabulously fleshy seared scallops (£10.50) served complete with their creamy roe, with spicy Calabrian sausage, tender stem broccoli and sufficient delicious buttery broth in which to dip fresh, crusty bread.Bliss. Next I had a substantial monkfish tail, roasted on the bone just so and served with roasted cherry tomatoes and a buttery sauce enlivened with capers and pine nuts (£20). Sides of rosemary roasted potatoes and excellent tempura zucchine fritters (£3.50 a pop) partnered nicely.
We rounded off by sharing a deep-dish apple and almond tart - almost a frangipane - served with lovely vanilla ice-cream (£6), about which the Italians know a thing or two. Piccolino is highly recommended.
Piccolino, 50 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire. Tel: 01625 599995. www.individualrestaurants.com