WITH its tempting bowls piled high with pasta and cheese-laden pizzas, the mid-range Italian restaurant market is a particularly crowded one.

After all, who doesn’t like a cheesy garlic bread and a carb-induced food baby?

But I have to confess I sighed a little when I saw the restaurant on the corner between Durham’s Market Place and Silver Street (previously home to the rather short-lived Lounge) had become one such establishment.

Uno Momento opened several months ago and based on my not very scientific survey of having a look whenever I walk past, it seems to be going reasonably well.

Given the woes of Silver Street over the last 12 months (it’s almost directly opposite the former M&S shops, one of a number of prominent empty units in one of Durham’s busiest streets) it’s a good thing to see the restaurant bustling on the Wednesday night we visit..

The restaurant is the latest in a small North-East chain, and has other venues in Darlington, Stokesly, Middlesbrough and Northallerton, so I can only imagine it doesn’t have any trouble bringing in the customers.

I suspect their “happy hour” deals, which last all night mid-week (and until 5pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and gets you two courses for £9.95 - £13.95, depending on the choice of main course, may have something to do with it.

The menu is vast, covering eight pages with dishes that range from the very traditional to some I can’t really imagine being cooked up on the streets of Rome or Florence, so there is probably something to suit most tastes.

It was already past 8.30pm when we sat down to dine and, not generally being of continental habits, we were in desperate need of some scran.

My first choice of sweet chilli mussels was unavailable so I had gamberetti picante (spicy prawns) instead, individually priced at £4.95.

Served up in a coating of very crisp breadcrumbs and with some pleasant enough sauces for dipping, they went down very nicely. They had an agreeable kick and while not the most exciting thing in the world, I could have eaten a plate of them.

Carlo’s black pudding and goats cheese (£5.95) was delivered to the table complete with a slightly baffling swan-like crisp of what we decided must have been pastry – presumably there mostly for presentational purposes.

The starter was, once again, nothing remarkable but tasty enough.

Next up for me was a bowl of pasta - A non-remarkable bowl of linguine in a creamy sauce with chicken and prawns (on the menu, linguini alla pescatora - £8.95)

Again served with a swans-neck of fried pastry, we wondered whether the chef might be keen on origami.

It was one of those bowls that felt like it went on forever so by the time I'd got to the bottom the creamy sauce was starting to weigh a little heavy in my stomach.

Carlo’s main course was pollo dolce momento (Individually £11.95) – chargrilled chicken breast, in a sweet chilli sauce, served with some chunky chips, promising “that sweet taste of Italy, with a twist”

Everything tasted fine though had a slightly random feel. “Exactly what the menu said but not what I was expecting,” was Carlo’s verdict.

Both the chicken and the sauce were fine and were cleared from the plate in due course.

We were however both stuffed and ready for our carb-induced coma so we skipped dessert in favour of going home.

Service was a little haphazard. Though polite enough, we did have to inform our server what we had eaten for dinner so they could work out how much to charge us while their card machine also had problems so I ended up having to walk to a cash machine to pay.

After some figuring out of happy hour menus we were presented with a final bill of £36, which included two glasses of house red – making it a fairly gentle night on the wallet – but not leaving much of a mark on our taste buds either. Unfortunately forgettable, though undoubtedly filling.


Uno Momento, 39 Silver Street, Durham

Contact: 0191 384 3966 Website - www.unomomentorestaurant.co.uk/durham

Open: 9am – 10pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food 6, Service 6, Value 8, Surroundings 8