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Relax @ Nuovo, Northampton

I ’ve only heard good things about Nuovo so I am really pleased to have finally made it to this Northampton town centre restaurant.

Even better, it’s a beautifully warm and sunny Thursday afternoon in July so we can take advantage of the pretty outdoor seating area.

I’ve always liked this restaurant setting at the top of Abington Street accessed by its own private courtyard walkway. You might also remember this premises in former guises as Joe’s Diner and Dolce Vita.

It has been Nuovo for nearly four years now and if the rave reviews I’ve been given are anything to go by, I am in for a treat this lunchtime.
We start with some drinks and enjoy some very pretty mocktails (we are both driving and have children to pick up fairly soon – so soft drinks it is). My Strawberry Fizz is fresh and fruity and perfect for a summer’s day like today. It’s a delightful mix of strawberry puree, mint, lemon, sugar and soda. It’s so nice it would probably provide its own dose of cheer even if it was cloudy and rainy. My companion enjoys a Mela Spritz (apple, mint, sugar, lime and soda). It looks quite like a mojito to me, and it’s quickly given the thumbs-up.
Then it’s time for the food.

Nuovo offer cicchetti – small plate options so you can try a variety of dishes. I suppose it’s like the Italian version of the Spanish favourite tapas (my interpretation not Nuovo’s!), although the portion sizes seem a little bigger. We are advised around three dishes per person does the trick.
The first things that strikes you when the food comes up are the amazing smells – I was hungry anyway but my mouth is really watering now – plus how pretty everything looks. This food is a treat for the eyes and is colourful and presented beautifully.

We spread our plates between us and get set to enjoy the arancini risotto balls, triangolini fritti pecorino and scamorza filled pasta, grilled artichoke with pesto and pine nuts, mozzarella and the pollo con limone chicken breast.

The arancini, made with wild mushroom and gorgonzola and served with a Napolitana sauce is warming and earthy. I have been disappointed by arancini in the past (some places just don’t get the texture right) but this is spot on and the consistency is firm.

The triangolini fritti pecorino and scamorza filled pasta which was dusted with air-dried tomato and parmesan was a particular favourite of mine. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting (in my head I was thinking something like ravioli but this had more bite) but I really enjoyed the flavours which left a bit of a tangy aftertaste. I had to remind myself there were plenty of dishes to choose from and not polish off the lot!

We also enjoyed some buffalo mozzarella which was accompanied by tomatoes. It was simple but these flavours work so well together that it really is a match made in food heaven. We also tried the grilled artichoke that was served with a traditional pesto and extra pine nuts. I was a bit unsure about this dish as I’ve had artichoke before in a tapas bar and wasn’t keen but it was a different story at Nuovo. I would definitely pick this again. It was a subtle dish with mild flavours given a little push by the perfect pesto.

While I enjoyed everything I tried I think the real star of the show was the pollo con limone chicken breast that was served with a lemon sauce, aubergine and crispy fennel. The chicken was cooked perfectly and was beautifully seasoned, the sauce was subtle but the lemon provided a little burst and the aubergine and fennel were delicious, especially the crispy texture of the fennel.
All the dishes together worked brilliantly and it really was a taste sensation. My only disappointment is we didn’t manage to clear every plate. I know I will be regretting leaving leftovers in a bit when I have some more room!

The reviews were right and this place really does deserve the credit it has been given. There are not many places that I dine that I find myself thinking about the flavour combinations and tastes for such a long time after.

Having waited so long to come here I will be making sure I head back again soon – my plan is to try completely new dishes and work my way through the menu… all in the name of research of course.

Words Jodie Jarrett