Restaurant review: Portofino, Colchester

THE party season was in full swing when we arrived at Portofino restaurant in Colchester, writes Stephanie Mackentyre...

THE party season was in full swing when we arrived at Portofino restaurant in Colchester, writes Stephanie Mackentyre.

Yet despite almost 200 diners to take care of, we were made to feel as if we were their only concern and taken swiftly to our table on the second floor overlooking the diners below. Classic Italian crusty baton was served with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. Then a healthy-sized portion of whitebait for my guest and deep-fried brie wedges for me with a homemade cranberry and port sauce. The menu was very well laid out and tempted you to try new dishes due to the attractive description of each one. For main course we opted for lasagne al ragu with melted mozzarella and, for me, penne with homemade meatballs in a tomato and basil sauce. It was nice to see you could choose a small or ample portion; we both chose small and found there was plenty. My penne was fresh and cooked al dente with meatballs full of herby flavour surrounded by a rich spicy tomato sauce. There are side orders to choose from including olives, fresh salads, chunky chips, mushrooms and garlic bread too. If you don't feel in the mood for pasta there's a second carne (meat) menu and some of the antipasti (appetisers) can also be chosen as main courses. The wine is imported directly from Italy and included on the list is a particularly appealing Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio. The restaurant is in the Hythe area of the town and there's plenty of parking right outside with the option to leave your car overnight if you wish to take a taxi home. For dessert there's a choice of nine delicious Italian-themed lovelies including Tia Maria tiramisu and Sicilian homemade cassata ice cream mould with fruit coulis, plus cheese and biscuits. You can also choose to end your meal the authentic Italian way with homemade rich lemon sorbet with a measure of amaretto - now that's amore.

Useful to knowThe total bill came to �41.90 for two courses each plus one dessert, a coke and a glass of house white wine. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.Book a tablePortofino, Haven Road, Colchester CO2 8HT 01206 795043Table Talk with diners Elaine Stuart and Ozzie Isfendiyar

What do you do? I've just come back from working on a cruise ship selling diamonds

What did you choose from the menu? Mussels in a white wine sauce, then beef in a cheese sauce with crisp vegetables mushrooms and chunky chips

Why were you dining out at Portofino? We have only just started seeing each other; this is our first week anniversary

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Describe your dining experience in three words: Tasty, succulent with good presentation

Rate the value for money: Higher than average, but the food compares to any London restaurant and in that case it's not expensive

Would you recommend Portofino to friends? I have already! I didn't realise there was a dance floor, I wish we had the time to stay to danceWhat did you enjoy most about your meal? The food was wonderful, the service was prompt and the fact I was there with OzSide OrdersTwo more places with a passion for pastaLa Vista23-25 Church Street, Gt Baddow Chelmsford CM2 7HX01245 478884We say: Owned and run by an Italian family, call in for a really genuinely warm Italian welcome and fab food

BartellasFurze Hill, Ivy Barn Lane, MargarettingNr Chelmsford CM4 0EW01277 355021We say: Luxury is standard here. You can be sure of great service and an appealing selection of dishes

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