I have to admit to being a bit of a “google geek”, as where ever I go whether it be on holidays or just days out I always tend to have a search for good places to visit and eat. Now on Google this can take lots of time with plenty of poor websites out there to trawl through. It was only at the end of last year did I discover the wealth of good restaurant reviews on blogs (thanks to my twitter friend Kavey) and finally banished Trip Advisor to the recycle bin. Now food blogs are there in abundance for London trips but what about the rest of the country?
Since starting my own blog at the beginning of the year I always had an idea of doing some local restaurant reviews, as not found one that covers Staffordshire (if anyone knows of a fellow Staffordshire based foodie blog, please let me know so I can pay a visit!).
So, which eatery to head to first? Well, I live in a small town called Rugeley, not particularly brimming with fabulous places to eat but there are a few gems. My current favourite is The Yorkshire Man, a gastro pub offering a locally sourced menu, but I will save this for a later post as definitely want to do it justice.
This used to be a brasserie style restaurant called the Plum Pudding until it was bought by Giuseppe Iaconi and turned into an Italian restaurant. Il Marchigiano advertises itself as a traditional Italian serving food “just like nonna or grandmother used to make”, with the menu based upon the peasant style of his homeland, the Le Marche region.
The restaurant is situated in a lovely village location right next to the Trent and Mersey Canal, but the interior is a little tired and could do with freshening up. We went on a Friday evening and the restaurant was half full and so had a nice atmosphere. We arrived just after another table of four and despite the fact they weren’t exactly brimming with customers we were all left hanging around in the bar for a few minutes before being welcomed or even offered to be taken through to our table.
The menu has a good selection of dishes with a focus on the traditional meat and fish mains eaten in Italy, where pasta is eaten as a first course. There’s not a pizza in sight, something that seems quite rare in other Italian restaurants around the country. There is a specials board too and on a Friday they also offer a Fish Special Menu with at least 8 further dishes to choose from.
After a browse of the menu the four of us had made our choices. I was opting for the Calamari starter, as had caved into a meaty main of the Beef Medallions cooked in a brandy, red wine and tomato sauce, (despite lingering over a few of the fish dishes for a while!). My companions all chose different starters and mains so I could get to see (and hopefully taste!) a wider range.
So we waited, and we waited and about after about 30 minutes our order was taken. Now I know sometimes you go out for food and end up chatting and not ordering for a while but at least most of the time waiting staff have been to see if you are ready to order. On this occasion all of us were hungry and ready to order after about 10 minutes of perusing the menu. When they eventually came to take the order we were informed that one of the dishes we had chosen, the Saltimbocca Alla Romana, or veal to you and me, was not available which did rather disappoint my hubby who was looking forward to something we don’t tend to cook at home. So he opted for the Steak special and there were no brownie points for the waiting staff so far!
The starters were delivered after another 30 minute wait with no accompaniment mutterings of any kind of apology from the waiting staff so either this is normal or they just don’t care. By this point we had devoured the complimentary bread sticks and were almost getting past the point of being hungry but with a desire for some scrumptious Italian food we ate. And oh how disappointed was I, the Calamari was served with a sweet chilli sauce which was needed to cut through the greasy batter which was so thick I could hardly taste the squid. Now I have eaten many plates of calamari during my time in Spain and this would definitely be at the top of the list of the worst eaten. They didn’t appear to be homemade either which was a disappointing start to the meal.
Other starters tasted included the Whitebait from the specials board which was also coated in a very heavy breadcrumb coating which totally overwhelmed what are normally fab little fishy treats. The Crostini tricolour and ‘Prosciutto e Melone’ from the menu were both enjoyed by my fellow guests but I guess where can you go wrong with sliced Melon and Ham?
So after a sub-standard start we waited with trepidation for the main course, and surprisingly we didn’t wait long. No sooner had our starter plates been collected than the mains arrived. Were things looking up? Most definitely, as thankfully all four dishes were received with appreciative sounds of scrumptious food. The beef medallions had been slowly braised and literally melted in the mouth, and the sauce was not as I expected but delicious all the same. It was like a really beefy ragu sauce, much like a traditional bolognaise, and was full of flavour. The men had steaks which had been topped off with some melted mozzarella and were served in a sauce suspiciously similar to mine, but were perfectly cooked and greeted with delight. The other dish tasted was the Maiale Marchigiano, pork in a creamy brandy mushroom sauce with apricots and honey, which I got to taste and was divine. The mains were accompanied with a selection of perfectly cooked vegetables including carrot, courgette and green beans and roasted new potatoes which were soon devoured by all of us.
We were offered the sweet menu but with appetites now satisfied we all declined. To be honest I’m not that fond of Italian desserts anyway and after the starters I was concerned the desserts wouldn’t be homemade and flavourless. Maybe next time, if I decide to give it another try?
I feel I should note than when paying the bill we did find out that of the two waiting staff on that night, one had only started that week so maybe on a return visit the service will be up to the mark? I guess there’s only one way to find out, so this might not be my last visit to the place but I would hope for some improvements.
However, hopefully this is the first of many reviews and and if I manage to venture further a field for some culinary delights no doubt they will pop up here too. But if you are visiting Staffordshire or the surrounding areas at any time you know where to check out (or avoid the case may be!).
p.s sorry for lack of pictures, we were sat in quite a dark corner and the flash on my camera does no justice to the food! Will try harder next time!