My dining choices are often decided by external factors. Sometimes, other people get to choose the restaurant. These people are brave, and I salute them, as steered away from my routine spots, I often find pleasures that are quite unexpected. On this occasion, internal factors made my choice, as my desperation for micturitional relief dictated a stop in the district of Il Castello, a place I’d spotted previously, although more as a curio than a “must visit” spot.
Their curio factor hinges upon the question, “what’s it like to have a restaurant next to a Michelin star place?”. In Il Castello’s case, they’re ploughing an entirely different furrow from their loftily-lauded neighbours at Castle Terrace, so are quite comfortable in their role.
Il Castello has been a going concern for many years prior to Dominic Jack’s arrival next door. It serves a classic array of Italian dishes, charging a very reasonable rate, with all pizzas well under a tenner and only their meatiest and fishiest dishes extending to the mid-teens of pound cost.
The place is smartly appointed, the welcome is extremely friendly, and the menu is vast in its range. I took a good while to contemplate the many pages, a task I eventually had to enlist a glass of house red to assist my deliberations.
My initial thoughts were spectacularly gluttonous. I had to try their melanzane, but I had half an eye of their stracciatella, also. Could I attempt a cheeky three-course savoury escapade? I thought better of it, after a moment’s consideration.
Given the warm welcome, I had a degree of certainty that the chief meeter and greeter would know his way around the menu, and so it proved. He recommended the lamb cutlets, and I quickly acceded to his suggestion.
Every Italian family has their own take on melanzane alla parmegiana, so it was no surprise to be confronted with something that looked a little different and interesting. The emphasis in Il Castello’s take on this classic was cheese and lots of it. Their focus wasn’t on getting much flavour in to the aubergine, sadly. It was very lightly cooked. This, coupled with the deluge of cheese, meant that the dish didn’t quite hit the mark.
The lamb cutlets, in contrast, were excellent. Served with piping hot, crisp chips, and a nicely dressed fresh salad, the dish was simplicity itself and a complete winner for that. The pieces of lamb were lean and tender and the rich meat sauce was deeply satisfying. It’s not the direction I usually go with Italian menus, so it had the surprise factor about it, also. All in all, it was an excellent recommendation.
So overall, I rather enjoyed Il Castello. Their take on melanzane wasn’t for me, but that aside it strikes me as a very reliable, friendly little place. And what’s more, their espresso was so good that I had a second one. Next time you’re in the environs, pop in for a warm welcome and good Italian fare.
Blythe scores Il Castello:
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 13.5/20
Today’s quester was: Blythe
I ate: melanzane alla parmegiana, lamb cutlets
I drank: house red
I wore: black travel suit
Total bill: c.£30