Salvo’s – Otley Road, Leeds.
After being labelled ‘the best independent Italian Restaurant’ by Gordon Ramsay’s ‘The F word’ Salvo’s has good reason to be smug. With crowds of customers wanting to experience the television credited institution, Salvo’s has monopolized the Leeds Italian market – but what really is so great about the eatery? I travelled north to investigate.
Stationed just off the Otley road, which incidentally is the 17th most congested road for its size in Europe, there is nothing enchanting about the restaurants exterior. Pond green with gold tints, Salvo’s is hardly a visual delight and after navigating through the traffic ridden, ambulance wailing streets my initial impression for this so called ‘best’ restaurant was disappointment. I must be missing something I thought – arriving at seven-thirty the queues were already stretching into the street. With the entrance out of sight for the sheer number of people, it took a good ten minutes to actually get in. As you finally manage to squeeze yourself through the front doors, past the numerous gaggles of overweight northerners, you think you finally might be able to eat. You are wrong.
The queue continues further culminating in a rather haughty looking blonde female empowered by a clip board. If strike one was the wrestle to get in, strike two was certainly this woman’s attitude. Aloof, with the expression that she had just smelt something rather nasty this woman had the p.r skills of an amoeba.
‘You, yes from you,’ she barked at a man directly behind me, in an angry school teacher manner ‘you’re looking at an hour to an hour and a half wait.’ There was no apology, no ‘I’m sorry for this inconvenience’ – just Führer-esque orders. This man wanted to give her (albeit indirectly) his time and money, surely a little politeness isn’t too much to ask? The fact was, there were enough people to fill the restaurant twice over so his wallet wasn’t needed, thus she didn’t need to be polite.
Eventually we made it to the clip-boarded fiend; she barely took her beady eyes of the table plan as she demanded ‘What’s the name?’ Again a distinct lack of ‘please’ – I mean it is one syllable, hardly taxing. Anyway, we were quickly ushered out of the way – ‘have a drink at the bar.’ The bar – you could hardly see it for swarms of people, another fifteen minutes queuing before you manage to get a drink, by which time you’ve been faffing for a good half an hour and are parched.
Placing your order you face another ten minute wait until the drink actually arrives and it comes with the menu. Yes, they want you to pre-order. Surely part of the great dining experience is sitting down, feeling relaxed and perusing the menu at your leisure – not at Salvo’s. No indeed, at Salvo’s they want you in an out as soon as possible, they have three people eager for your space and that equals three times as much money. There’s good service and there’s fast food, and this is certainly the latter. Within seconds of sitting down your starter is plonked before you and no sooner as your knife and fork clink together it is swept away. No time to digest, the main course arrives. It’s cleared. Pudding? No thank you. Coffee? Yes please. You can tell they’re pissed off. Coffee arrives. Would you like anything else? They want you to ask for the bill. No thank you. They stalk off. Coffee finished. They return – repetition – would you like anything else? No just the bill, thanks. Within seconds it’s in front of you, obviously already printed off and they arrive with the card machine. It’s a military operation. Before you know it you’re outside, confused to whether it was your idea or theirs and have indigestion.
The most frustrating thing about the whole scenario, however, is that (if you had the time to enjoy it) the food is actually not that bad. Filo pastry King Prawns with a sweet chilli dip and the Confit of Lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes are amongst the menus highlights. Also noteworthy are the wide selection of Pizzas…which are undeniably pretty tasty – but indeed in an Italian restaurant isn’t a good Pizza a given? Overall we must return to the dining experience as a whole, which was nothing short of dreadful – ‘Best Independent Italian restaurant’ – no ‘f-ing’ way.