Ask Italian

Ask is one of those places where you meet friends after Thursday late night shopping for simple food and a glass of Prosecco. To be honest, it’s never really been on our agenda to have a family meal here.
With its twinkling candles, rows of tables for two, wine glasses set out, sharing platters galore, large white echoey establishments screaming grown-ups and edging towards whispering couples on date night, rather than the baby’s flicking food everywhere and siblings arguing. Pizza Express is more a family-friendly restaurant.

But what a pleasant surprise.

We were greeted by a lovely waiter who cleared an area for us to store our buggy and mountains of shopping in preparation for our weekend at Camp Bestival away from the other diners. Naturally, we didn’t want to upset any cooing couples, so we came along for lunch. However, despite this, it was busy and brimming with young families.

The kid’s menu is fun and has a reasonable selection for a little under £7, so it’s on par with Pizza Express, and they continuously have offers you can download to save some pennies. The menu has all the usuals you’d expect – crunchy crudités to start followed by pizza or pasta OR their all-new Dip & Dunk Pasta – unfortunately this wasn’t on the menu when we visited, but it sounds like something kids will go crazy for; dip your pasta into tasty tomato sauce then dunk into grated cheese. The little ones can choose from pasta cartwheels or cheese and tomato filled tortellini. They also offer a gluten-free pizza which is perfect for Finn, who is currently trialing a new diet to see if it improves his tummy problems.
But where Ask excels, is the pudding. Ice cream, fruit, ice lolly or, wait for it, a chocolate pizza with marshmallows and strawberries! The boys went mad for it, and it’s a great way to say “eat all your dinner, or they’ll be no pudding….”

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The problem I find at the moment when dining out with Austyn is what he will have to eat. He doesn’t like anything with a tomato-based sauce, and equally, he’s too little to warrant a meal from the children’s menu. Usually, I would share, but I am in selfish Mummy mode and want nothing but Arrabbiata which will set his nappy on fire should he have one mouthful, so I call over our very friendly waiter… “I know this is cheeky but is there any chance you could do my baby the tiniest of tiny portions of your pesto pasta – I mean just literally three small spoonfuls? Of course, I will pay for this, but he won’t eat anything we are eating and everything on the children’s menu is tomato-based which he will refuse…?” Awaiting the “no sorry madam, that’s not company policy”, he says he will check with the manager. Seconds later, “yes, of course, that is absolutely not a problem at all – will he eat our standard Purple Basil Pesto Genovese, or would he prefer it plain?”
Wow, this is a first – not only are they facilitating a baby’s requests, but they altered the recipe. I like this place.

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The food arrives in an amount of time that lets you know the food is fresh, but not too long that you’re salivating to the point of swallowing your food whole when it arrives. The wine is chilled, Beards beer is reasonably priced for a bottled Italian beverage and the kid’s water is, as expected, tastes of water, is cold and doesn’t contain lemon, just how they like it. They even heated up Baby Moo’s milk to an acceptable level as opposed to molten lava.

As previously mentioned, we visited for lunch on a Saturday so it was bustling and there was enough noise to dampen the original noises I feared would disturb others. Siblings arguing and Austyn chucking food. while I tried to reason with the beast. The staff were attentive and the food was far superior to Pizza Express. It was fresh, it was perfectly cooked, and it was presented beautifully not just slopped on the plate. Plus, the price was far less than what we expected – it was worth every penny, and we would thoroughly recommend it.

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