If you’ve been anywhere near Wyndham Arcade, Cardiff recently, you could be forgiven for thinking a new restaurant has opened up on the end nearest to Mill Lane. With its new striped canopy and painted grey front, long-standing chain restaurant, Ask Italian is bound to catch your attention since its recent revamp.
Inside, the restaurant is decked out in shades of turquoise and although I never came here prior to the refurb, I’d peered inside and the decor had quite a simple, classy vibe to it; in stark contrast to its vibrant new look.
Visiting Ask Italian on a weekday evening, the restaurant was pretty busy and there weren’t many tables free. However, we were seated upon arrival and handed the drinks menu, which featured a few Italian beers and wines, in addition to San Pellegrino; my guilty pleasure when it comes to soft drinks. I ordered a glass of prosecco (£5) to sip on as I deliberated over the food menu, while my guest opted for a bottle of Italian beer, Messina (£4.25/330ml).
The food menu includes all of the staple dishes you’d expect from an Italian restaurant – antipasti, pasta, pizza, risotto, and meaty mains like pollo Milanese and pork belly porchetta. Prices are on par with what you’d expect to pay at a typical Italian restaurant.
I kicked things off with the mushrooms al forno (£5.95); mushrooms filled with creamy mozzerella and Riserva cheese mixed with breadcrumbs, onions and garlic, served with crunchy pieces of Italian bread and garlic mayonnaise for dipping. I wasn’t overly impressed with these, if I am honest. The mushrooms looked and tasted dried out, while the cheese filling was a little stingy, as were the two small pieces of Italian bread at the bottom of the dish.
I began to feel very jealous of my guest’s starter of juicy butterfly king prawns (£6.95), roasted with fresh garlic and parsley and sprinkled with freshly ground pepper, sitting on a generous serving of Italian bread.
For my main course, I succumbed to the tagliatelle asparagus and pancetta carbonara (£12.95); an innovative take on one of my favourite Italian dishes. I added seasoned chicken pieces as an extra topping for £1.50. The sauce was velvety and creamy and I liked that the pancetta was added to the dish whole after cooking, because this meant that it didn’t disintegrate to much and it gave the dish a meaty texture. That said, the sauce may have benefited from extra flavour if the pancetta had been chopped up and cooked with the other ingredients. The tagliatelle was a real let down, though – it was a little too thick and, in places, it wasn’t just al dente, but undercooked.
Again, I seemed to have drawn the short straw on choice of dishes. Opposite from me at the table, aragosta and gamberoni tagliatelle (£14.95) consisted of whole, shell-on king prawns and tender morsels of lobster in a herby tomato sauce, mixed with perfectly cooked tagliatelle (the mind does boggle) and topped with freshly chopped parsley.
With only dessert left to go, I hoped that I would finally be satisfied with my choice of dish. We were literally salivating at the thought of Mount Etna (£6.75); a dark chocolate cup which is topped with hot toffee sauce at the table, causing the chocolate to melt to reveal a scoop of vanilla gelato perched on top of a rich hot chocolate fondant. Unfortunately it had sold out, so I opted for the honeycomb cheesecake (£5.95) instead. Served on a buttery, cookie base, an indulgently smooth cheesecake was topped with chocolate-coated honeycomb pieced and drizzled with dark chocolate. Finally, a dish I was content with.
My guest rounded off his meal with profiteroles filled with soft vanilla Italian ice cream (£5.95) and finished with lashings of salted caramel sauce. These were actually meant to be served with hot chocolate sauce, but the kitchen had run out of this. Asalted caramel sauce was sweet and moreish, but we both agreed that it felt a bit wrong eating profiteroles without oodles of sticky chocolate sauce squirted all over them.
On the whole, my first experience of dining at Ask Italian was a mixed bag. I wasn’t overly keen on my starter or main course, but my dessert was delicious and if I’d ordered what my guest went for, I’m sure I would’ve been satisfied with my meal from start to finish. I won’t be hurrying back for more, but if I was looking for somewhere to eat out in this part of Cardiff, I wouldn’t mind giving it another go to see what the other dishes on the menu are like.
24-32 Wyndham Arcade
+44 (0) 29 2034 4665
What makes a good Italian restaurant? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below this post.
I was invited to Ask Italian as a guest and our food and drink was provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.