Reviewed by Sarah Jones
I must admit that the prospect of going to another Italian chain restaurant did not overly excite me, as the high street seems littered with various chains all promising excellent pizza and pasta. However, my partner and I tried the ASK in Exeter in late November and were very pleasantly surprised at the experience.
Firstly, the building is amazing. The cathedral yard in Exeter is full of wonderful historical buildings and it was lovely to see that, rather than modernising over the original features, they had built the restaurant around the character of the property itself. This level of character, as simple as it may seem, made the whole experience less like we were eating in a chain and more like we had stumbled across a hidden Italian gem in the middle of the city. The way the place is set out is also pretty nice – with the structure’s low beams and the bustle from the bar and the kitchen audible (but not overpowering) ASK had a nice atmosphere, especially for a Monday night. All good so far.
We were shown to a lovely table in a large, airy room that I am pleased to say was lovely and warm – despite being the middle of winter. After being served a couple of smashing gin and tonics we moved on to our starters. I had a nice light bruschetta and my partner went for garlic mushrooms that arrived at our table still sizzling. I am not going to pretend that these were in anyway ground breaking but, for the price at the very least, they were tasty and served promptly by our friendly and charming waiter. For the main course my other half went for a meat calzone, which came accompanied by a little fresh salad and garlic butter. I branched out a little and had one of their winter specials – a slow cooked shoulder of lamb with cavatelli pasta and a tomato and basil sauce. It was really good! The lamb was beautifully tender and the sauce full of fresh vegetables that still had a little bite to them…there is so something so satisfying about meat so well cooked you can pull it straight off the bone with your fork. I will admit I did not expect to find it here, so I stand corrected. It was very tasty indeed. My only regret is that I couldn’t fit in a dessert, as plum tart went past and it looked divine.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming the place is going to win any Michelin stars; the menu itself was fairly predictable, boasting the usual pizzas, pastas, grill dishes and risottos. You are not going to find anything innovative here but, all said and done, the meal (indeed the whole experience) was overwhelmingly positive. A good meal, good service, at a good price in a great location… seems pretty good to me.
For more information or to book a table visit www.askitalian.co.uk