It had been a couple of years since we’d been to Cucina (last time we visited I had the most amazing coconut panna cotta which still sticks vividly in my mind!) so we were both looking forward to going back after not having been for so long…
We booked a table for valentines day so obviously the restaurant was set up with loads of tables for two, most of which were already full when we arrived. There was a set menu for the evening which included four courses – the choice of 5 starters, a pasta course, 5 mains and 4 desserts was really great and gave us more optons than I was expecting
For my starter I chose the charcuterie board which included parma ham, speck & fennel salami, with a couple of slices of bread and a rocket garnish. Each of the meats were great quality and my favourite was the salami which had a good strong hit of fennel & garlic, closely followed by the smokey rosemary-flavoured speck and classic parma ham which both had a lovely light layer of melt in the mouth fat. The portion was very generous, which only encouraged the husband to keep asking for a taste!
The intermediate pasta course was spaghetti & meatballs for two to share and I have to say the meatballs were incredible! They were made from pork & chicken liver and were so moist, with a gorgeously smooth richness from the liver and a good helping of herbs and seasoning. They were served with al dente spaghetti, a chunky tomato & herb sauce and a good sprinkling of black pepper and fresh parmesan. Simple but so good we almost fought over who’d had more than their share!
On to the main course and I went for the only special of the night, duck breast with puy lentils, honey & balsamic. The duck was tender and nicely blushing on the inside with a crisp skin, and was served on top of the lentils which had a sweetness from the honey and sliced red grapes, and a depth from the balsamic that only comes from it being reduced down – there was no sharpness whatsoever. Alongside our mains were roasted carrots and buttery dauphinoise potatoes, both simply cooked and served to share
I do have to admit to having a slight case of food envy when I tried the husband’s main course of duo of beef… rare roast rump of beef which was literally perfect, and the most intense slow braised beef with mushrooms which we both agreed was amongst the nicest we’d had
Dessert had to be the banana and chocolate crumble with a flapjack topping and mango sorbet. At first I thought the sorbet might not have been as well suited to the crumble as ice cream would be, but as soon as I tasted it I realised I was wrong! The base of the dessert was really sweet, sticky and chocolatey with chunks of cooked banana, so the fruity sorbet was a great match to offset the intensity of the chocolate and sweetness of the flapjack topping
The restaurant was really busy all night, with people still arriving well after 9pm. The atmosphere throughout felt really vibrant – the open kitchen & enthusiastic staff were great and prevented the restaurant from feeling awkward which can sometimes happen when somewhere is filled purely with couples
Everything we ate was so full of flavour and I would quite happily go back and order any of the dishes on the menu
One thing I will say which is not related to our experience on the night, is that their website/social media leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no real up to date information and I think having a bit of a re-fresh would help people when looking for somewhere to eat – especially when they have things to shout about such as great special occasion set menus or offers they may have
What’s your favourite Italian restaurant in Derby?