Express & Star

Food review: Pasta could not be bettered at Il Michaelangelo

If there is a better combination than pasta and fresh seafood, I’ve yet to try it – and if there is a restaurant in the region serving such a dish better than Il Michelangelo, in Brierley Hill, I’ve yet to find it.

Spaghetti marinara, mixed seafood and past

When you get one of your all-time favourite meals served pretty much to perfection on a lovely Saturday afternoon with your wife and daughter, life doesn’t get much better.

We headed to the Italian restaurant and went for the lunch time menu, mainly because it seemed ridiculously-reasonably priced but also because I was eating with wife, Kelly, and soon-to-be five-year-old daughter, Annabelle – so an earlier feast suited us all.

The idea couldn’t have gone much better and we had one of our best lunchtime meals in a long while.

The setting at Il Michelangelo just immediately makes you feel more relaxed. We were sat in the corner, next to two ornamental classic guitars, while soft, Italian music was played in background.

The cliché of being whisked away to Rome sprung to mind while we were in fact sitting in the middle of Brierley Hill.

First, it was time for drinks. The wine is not cheap but the house red was really nice, luckily for us, because we went straight for that one.

Annabelle had a diet coke as a treat and then immediately spilt it over the entire table. The staff were quickly on hand to change the covers, brought another drink over for the culprit and even had a laugh about it. In fact, the staff were brilliant throughout. It wasn’t exactly a busy lunch time but they were always on hand to offer more drinks and to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.

Once we were settled back down it was time to order starters and mains, from the two courses for £14.95 lunchtime menu, which is served from noon to 2.30pm, from Wednesday to Saturday.

There is a surcharge for some of the meals – and of course Kelly made a beeline for those meals, such is her keen taste for the finer things in life – but even with the extra cost it was still a great deal, with plenty of choice too.

Starters include Zuppa Del Giorno, homemade soup of the day served with garlic bread; Bruschetta Al Pomodoro, toasted bread topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil; and Insalata Salentina, a mixed salad of spinach, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olives, cherry tomatoes and pesto.

All of the above sounded delicious but as we had already been served a selection of small breads with an olive oil and balsamic dip, we went for something a bit different instead.

Kelly’s eyes were turned towards the Parmigiana Di Melanezane, which was layers of sliced aubergines topped with mozzarella and tomato. Finally, it is all baked together.

In her word, it was delicious. She had never tried aubergine cooked in that way before but the texture was like layers of vegetable lasagne.

It had rich flavours with a lovely strong taste of cheese and tomatoes within the sauce – superb.

Knowing a light, seafood dish was around the corner for me, I decided to go for something a bit heavier and ordered the Polpette Al Sugo, beef and pork meatballs cooked in a spicy, tomato sauce.

The meatballs were sublime. They had a lovely kick of garlic and herbs but not too much that they were overpowering the flavours of the meat.

Also served in a rich tomato sauce, I lapped up the rest with some of the leftover bread.

If the starters were good, the mains were even better – and it was nice to get a break in between meals, allowing the first courses to go down over a chat while taking in the Italian music.

The meals included any pizza, pasta or risotto off the à la carte menu. I had to double check that with the waiter because the selection was so large I wasn’t sure I’d read it correctly.

But I had, and I was even more delighted to see the spaghetti marinara on the list, which was a selection of mixed seafood, served with a touch of tomatoes and a hint of chilli.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the best pasta dish I have ever tasted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with it being a lunch menu, whether it would be a small portion or perhaps the chef would be saving the best for the evening clientele.

Thankfully, neither of those thoughts came true because the dish was packed with mussels in the shells, as well as squid and prawns.

Again, the sauce took nothing away from the flavour of the fish but the pasta had absorbed the juices beautifully.

With extra parmesan and black pepper, it was wonderful. It’s a seafood pasta dish that’s going to take some beating.

For Kelly’s main, she went for Agnello Al Forno, slow-roasted lamb shank in a red wine, garlic and rosemary sauce, served with mash.

It came with a £2.95 surcharge but it was certainly worth the extra cash as the dish was cooked to perfection, with the meat falling off bone. Tender and tasty, the quality meat was noted and, when eaten with a bit of the creamy mash and some of the wonderful gravy, it turned into a proper indulgent home-cooked style meal.

Kelly went as far as saying it was the best tasting mash and sauce she had ever tasted for meal like that.

She was also impressed by the house wine, an Italian red, which was full-bodied and worked as a great accompaniment to the lamb shank.

Kelly, like me, just wished she’d had room to try the desserts but even for a lunchtime menu we were both treated to hearty meals, which meant no sweets to follow.

Aside from pastas, pizzas and risottos, there were plenty of other dishes to choose from too, including a Pollo Stroganoff of chicken cooked with cream, mushrooms, peppers, mustard, brrandy and paprika, served with rice, and Branzino Agli Spinaci, which was a sea bass roulade stuffed with butter lemon spinach and served with handcut chips.

Either of those, I’m sure, would also have been wonderful – but alas, they were not seafood pasta.

The children’s menu was also very reasonably priced and Annabelle was happy to share some of our starters before her main arrived.

As a pasta fanatic, choosing was no problem at all and she went for the classic spaghetti bolognaise.

All of the children’s dishes were also served with a choice of two sides, so we ordered chips and peas.

To be honest, the sides were not really necessary because the meal was huge. However, the staff were kind enough to bag the leftovers up for her, meaning she was able to enjoy some authentically-cooked pasta the next day too – I’m not sure my version will cut the mustard any longer.

Either way, if you’re a fan of Italian food, I’d highly recommended a trip to Il Michelangelo, either during the day for an evening treat.