I VOWED I was not going to be all snobby and foodie when we set out for Uno Momento in Northallerton.

Not being a fan of this Italian chain’s “pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap” philosophy, I told myself to forget the underwhelming experience I had at the Darlington branch a few years ago – and subsequently backed up by colleagues’ reviews of the Durham and Stokesley versions.

An open mind was the order of the day.

So the fact that this branch has been sporting a temporary sign for well over a year (hardly a vote of confidence in the business) really didn’t matter,

Neither did the “authentic” and very, very long menu boasting of those well-known classic Italian dishes - fish and chips, Hawaiian burger and enchilada.

Actually, that temporary sign does, of course, tell us something about the ongoing state of the restaurant trade in Northallerton. This branch occupies the Friarage Street premises in what was the ill-fated Quattro Ragazzi, another Italian which served half-way decent food but was fatally undone by poor service and the complete absence of any atmosphere.

Atmosphere is something Uno Momento’s various incarnations are never short of. It might not necessarily be an atmosphere everyone will like but it definitely is lively.

In Northallerton that is big plus. It is positively refreshing to walk into a restaurant in this town of an evening and for it to be full.

It was the tail-end of the Saturday night “happy hour” (starter and any pizza for £9.95, starter and any pasta dish £10.95) so the place was packed with families and as soon as they left the tables were quickly filled by a slightly more mature crowd. Like us. It was frenetic and made more so by the closeness of the tables which were barely two feet apart. Cosy.

Food arrived very swiftly after ordering. At least our starters and main courses did.

Sylvia thought her spicy bread-crumbed prawns (£4.95) served with a couple of dips – sweet chilli and garlic mayonnaise - were lovely and she thought her main choice – chargrilled chicken breast in more sweet chilli sauce, with mixed peppers, garlic and onion (£11.95) served with chips and a salad garnish – pretty acceptable too.

My Salmon Fetta starter (£5.95) sounded great – diced smoked salmon, mascarpone cheese, dill and lemon juice served on toasted bread with balsamic glaze and mango coulis sprinkled with baby prawns and smoked salmon – but didn’t live up to the promise of the menu description.

The main problem was that because everything was so chilled, the flavour was almost completely lost. The baby prawns were embryonic and just thawed. The salad garnish consisted of dry-as-dust rocket leaves and a quarter of tomato that was a hard as a cricket ball.

My sirloin steak Dolce Latte (£19.95) looked the part but ultimately disappointed. Cooked the rare side of the requested medium-rare, it was sinewy piece of meat and the undercooking didn’t help. The blue cheese sauce was, however, very good – great to scoop up with the chips.

There was also a battered onion ring, cooked whole tomato, some shrivelled mushrooms and a salad garnish which included another quarter of the cricket ball tomato.

Dessert – which we had to wait ages to order and then another age to arrive - was an “authentic” tiramisu (£4.95) which would have had Nonnas the length of Italy crying into their minestrone. Instead of being light and fluffy it was gelatinous to the point being almost gluey and again chilled to within a few degrees of freezing.

Service started off okay but tailed off drastically towards the end. And we had a very interesting exchange with the waiter who served us with wine.

We had ordered and were served with a bottle of Pecorino, the best white on a list of six, which we realised later wasn’t the wine as described on the menu.

The waiter didn’t show it to us. He just poured almost a third of the bottle into one glass and placed it in front of Sylvia. When she protested he said: “We always find the ladies drink the most!” Sylvia thought this was a thoroughly charming remark. And so amusing.

When the bill came, the wine was listed as a Prosecco. As it was £2 cheaper than the one we ordered we let it go.

The bill total was £70.70 which wasn’t very good for what is meant to be bargain basement dining out. But had we turned up half an hour early and stuck with pizza or pasta and a bottle of the house plonk we could have got out of there for little more than half that amount. And the food might have been better.

I’m afraid my inner food snob just got the better of me.


Uno Momento, 2b Friarage Street, Northallerton, DL6 1DP

Tel: 01609 258250

Web: unomomentorestaurant.co.uk/northallerton

Disabled access (bit it won’t easy).

Gluten-free pasta available.

Open: Mon-Thurs 11am-9.30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-9pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 6, Service 5, Surroundings 6, Value 7