REVIEW: ASK Italian, Bell Court, Stratford

The sharing plate of antipasto starter at ASK Italian

I must start this review of the new ASK Italian with a confession: I am a food snob, and don’t like chain restaurants much.

Too often the food is churned out with no discernible quality or pride. However after a visit to this new Bell Court establishment I have changed my mind in this case.

For a start the restaurant looks absolutely dazzling. I very much like the increasingly cosmopolitan feel of Bell Court – with its al fresco dining around the central courtyard, and can imagine – and hope – it being a cool and buzzy spot come the summer. The ASK Italian restaurant with its funky tall glass exterior, twinkling lights and exposed views is certainly a classy addition.

The exterior of the ASK Italian at Bell Court

Stepping in with family in tow – husband and three teens – I was also impressed by the warmth and welcome with which the manager and team greeted us. We were ushered immediately to a large booth from which we could see into the long galley of the kitchen, and the chefs hard at work. With its vaulted interior and use of brick, wood and tiles, it feels modern and trendy inside too; which got a big nod of approval from the hard-to-please teens.

As we were feeling festive I started with an Aperol spritz – the Italian aperitif that’s a bit of a trend thing at the moment – made with prosecco and the bitter orange mixer it takes its name from, it’s delicious, refreshing and seems just right for Christmas.

The Pesto Genovese

To start we shared a large antipasto platter, which came with Milano and fennel salami, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, rocket salad and rosemary and sea salt bread with smoked chilli jelly and olive tapenade. It was all really spot-on and squeekily fresh tasting – particularly the bread which seemed to have comes straight from the oven. We wolfed the lot down in record time.

For main course we all stuck to pasta, a perennial crowd-pleaser; my exotic sounding purple basil pesto Genovese consisted of fresh egg tagliatele in a green pesto and cream sauce, with fine green beans and pine nuts, topped with purple basil pesto, and was perfectly yummy. I should add that the extensive menu also offers salads, pizzas and meat and fish main dishes.

For pudding, the kids couldn’t resist the chocolate Etna – which provided a great spectable as our waitress poured hot toffee sauce over a dark chocolate cup, melting it to reveal a hidden scoop of vanilla gelato on top of a hot chocolate fondant. My honeycomb cheesecake was a bit sweet for my liking, so I happily ordered another Aperol spritz and left ASK Italian, converted to the delights it has to offer.

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