12:00am Monday 30th April 2012
By Simon Moss
198 Fleet Road, Fleet
IF there is one thing Fleet High Street is not short of, it's places to eat.
It is pleasing then, to see that El Castello appears to be thriving in the face of stiff competition from two well known Italian chain restaurants.
Booked in for a 7.30pm sitting on Saturday night, the place was already half full - and by eight, there wasn't a table to be had. Part of that, I hope, is due to Fleetonians supporting independent trade - but a lot of credit must go to the menu.
Where else in the town can you order Ostrich fillet in a red wine sauce served with mashed potatoes? Having tried ostrich before, I was tempted, but already had my heart set on the Penne Napoli, comprising sliced beef filet with peppers, mushrooms and onions in a tomato sauce.
But I am getting ahead of myself as the drinks order alone was enough to set this place apart. The restaurant was serving Rothaus German beers, which I was happy about as a trip to an Italian restaurant usually involves the bland Nastro Azzurro or other boring lager. My partner was also happy to sip the shandy offering. It is this and many other small things that set El Castello apart.
For starters, we shared the Mozzarella Caroza, priced at £5.30, which came with tomato sauce and a side salad. It was a simple and pleasing way to start the meal. For mains I opted for the aforementioned Penne Napoli while my partner tackled the Farfale Cremosa, pasta with broccoli, gorgonzola, white wine and a touch of cream.
Both dishes were cooked to perfection and flavoursome. Crucially, they lacked the conveyer belt taste given off at most Italians.
Already full, the sheer breadth of the dessert menu meant it had to be tried. All desserts are priced at £4.95, which seems reasonable as well. I tried the fabulous Mousse al Ciccolato, a chocolate mousse on a bed of chocolate sponge, while my partner tried the sorbet as a proper palate cleanser.
The whole meal, for a little over £40, seemed very good value. I would urge anyone coming to try Fleet's plethora of eateries to skip the big brand names and give this gem a try.
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