Living in a small town like Loughborough, it's easy to get into bad habits. One of my bad habits is sticking to the same places; whenever my partner and I go for something to eat, it's always the local Wetherspoons. When I was recently offered the chance to try some more local venues, seeing what Loughborough really had to offer outside of the usual chains you'd expect to spot in your local town, I was definitely intrigued. Could I find somewhere in Loughborough that would tear me away from the easy option?
After trying La Gondola, I can not only say that those easy options and bad habits have officially been broken, but I am in food-adoration. Can you fall in love with a restaurant? Because I have.
When arriving at La Gondola, which is situated within walking distance of the town centre on Ashby Road, I didn't know what to expect. Would we enjoy it? Would the food be worth the visit? Would the staff be welcoming? By the end of the night the experience we had was far from what I expected, it was everything I hoped it would be - and a million times better than I could ever have imagined.
When Calamari is on the menu it's always my first choice and so I happily ordered the Calamari Fritti to start. 'Crispy Calamari lightly floured and fried, served with a wedge of fresh lemon.'. From first bite I was amazed by the delicious dish in front of me. Unlike most venues who will deep fry their calamari in thick batters to a crispy finish, the delicacy of the lightly floured and fried calamari was sensational. Unlike any other calamari I had tried before, almost melt in the mouth - without a doubt the best calamari I had ever had.
I sneaked a bite from my partner's dish too - he opted for the Gamberoni Al Cognac; king prawns cooked in butter, olive oil and lemon juice, with a hint of garlic, finished with flamed cognac, I was just as pleasantly surprised. The prawns were so beautifully cooked, the flavour was stunning but not too overpowering. An amazing start to the evening.
I'm a big steak fan and so I couldn't resist trying the Bistecca Alla Pizzaiola for my main; Sirloin steak cooked to your liking in a garlic, tomato and oregano sauce. I was intrigued by the sauce, having never had a tomato based sauce with steak before, never even considering it as an option. My steak was cooked to perfection, medium-rare, but a touch more on the rare side, just how I like it. Served with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables, as perfectly presented as the starters. From first bite I was in food heaven, my face melted in pure satisfaction as this perfectly cooked piece of meat melted in my mouth, full of flavour. I don't think I could ever have steak with peppercorn sauce again, completely converted to the idea of a tomato concoction to accompany my steaks from now on.
I could see my partner tucking into his dish with as much gusto as me. He opted for a pasta dish, Tagliatelle Con Polpette; pasta ribbon and homemade beef and herb meatballs in a rich tomato and basil sauce, and of course I had to give it a try. The meatballs had been seasoned to perfection, the sauce was delicious and the added twist of mince meat throughout the sauce was a lovely touch. The pasta was cooked to perfection and accompanied with a side of homemade garlic bread which made the perfect finishing touch to an incredible main, it's safe to say we were extremely impressed.
When it came to checking out the dessert menu, it was a no-brainer for me. I went for homemade tiramisu, a dessert I can never resist, whilst my cheesecake loving partner couldn't resist trying the homemade fruits of the forest cheesecake - enticed after being told that regulars at La Gondola often comment on the homemade cheesecake being like no other cheesecake they have tried before.
It's safe to say, after two courses which we thought couldn't be beaten, we were left to delve into homemade desserts which were the cherry on top of a completely unexpectedly scrumptious evening.The tiramisu was perfect on every aspect, the cheesecake was like no other cheesecake we'd tried before.
I cannot put into words how much we enjoyed our visit to La Gondola, how much it surpassed any expectations we had. A lovely little venue that has wonderfully welcoming staff, a truly dedicated chef and owner, which uses the freshest ingredients to hand to create the most impeccable dishes, and all at exceptionally reasonable prices.
In a small town where there's nothing much to shout about, La Gondola is a venue which truly spoils us. A restaurant that is worth travelling for - a restaurant we will be booking again very soon, completely hooked on the genuine Italian dishes that made us smile from ear to ear in pure delight.
*We were kindly invited along as guests; all views are my own - Disclaimer.