Cloisters Italian Restaurant - Great Food Great Price
14th May 2008
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Delicious Lunch at Cloisters
by Lorna Vibert

I met my daughter for lunch in Cloisters in St Mary's Street last Friday. As soon as we walked in we knew we were going to enjoy it. The decor is inviting, unplastered walls, modern yet comfortable furniture and a muted and comfortable general ambience.

We were welcomed in a really friendly manner by the owners, brother and sister Leon and Sadie Iancono, and we chose to sit downstairs in the armchair club chairs.

We were offered drinks to start, but decided on plain water, which was served beautifully iced in a jug with lime and orange slices. Delicious!

The menu spoiled us for choice. We don't eat meat, so it was a delight to find that we had a whole range of choices - unusual in a non-vegetarian restaurant. As it was lunchtime, we didn't have a starter, but I was sorely tempted by the stuffed mushrooms with gorgonzola, honey and breadcrumbs and the stuffed aubergines with chilli, mixed nuts, onions and tomato sauce, baked with mozzarella on top.

So we were torn between the truly healthy option of a delicious sounding salad ( I fancied the Caesar salad - mixed leaves, parmesan, olives, anchovies and croutons) or a pizza or pasta. In the end I chose the half a pizza of your choice with mixed salad; my daughter couldn't decide, so Leon recommended the chef's choice pasta.

The food was served in a surprisingly short time - and I was really glad that I had gone for a half pizza as it was fairly large. The pasta was penne in a scrumptious cheesy garlicky sauce with a large range of cooked Mediterranean vegetables, and a bunch of fresh rocket. My daughter really enjoyed it - Leon was quite right when he said that it would be something she'd like.

I had the Capricciosa pizza with chilli, garlic, mozzarella, olives and tomato and it was served with the just the right amount of chilli- not too much to overpower the rest of the flavours, but enough to let you know it was there. The pastry was thin and light. The salad with it was mixed, with a good range of vegetables with olives and a delicious light dressing.

Prices are really reasonable here, with a lunchtime special for two with two main courses for just £10. This is a real bargain as the portions are generous to say the least.

We were tempted into a sweet course, and had samples of Bailey's cheesecake, a traditional cheesecake with Baileys flavouring and a delicious crust, a chocolate fudge cake with a name that truly describes it, the most wonderful Tiramisu we have ever tasted (this is Leon and Sadies father's speciality), light, fluffy and not overwhelming at all and the most incredible jelly made from pomegranates and a light sparkling Italian wine. This was fragrant and light and just right on a warm day - this is Sadie's speciality. It would be perfect after a full complement of starter and main course. All of the desserts we sampled were great, but the Tiramisu and the Jelly were the stars.

To finish off I had a decaffeinated coffee and to my delight it came in a good sized mug and tasted just like the real thing - a superb blend of real coffee.

This is a small family-run establishment, and offers a really welcome change from the Italian chain restaurants in town, with an original and tempting array of dishes at very reasonable prices. Everything about Cloisters seems right, the owners are friendly and welcoming, the staff are great, the decor is relaxing and there are lots of nice touches like the elegant table decorations, the napkins and the magazines. We would definitely eat there again and would recommend everyone who hasn't discovered it yet to go there immediately. They're open 7 days a week lunchtimes and evenings, but are closed on Sunday and Monday lunchtimes.

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