Italian Grill belongs to the same people who own Henry's Coffee House and The Meathouse.
Yes, I have tried them both - in fact, I really enjoyed Henry's up until I discovered The Burgh Coffee House. The Meathouse does amazingly good burgers (they did when I was last there anyway), so it was a no-brainer when I had to decide on a place to lunch with mother, who is a bit of a fussy eater.
The restaurant occupies what was the the Dundee Box Office and is right next to Henry's Coffee House on the City Square.
The last time I ventured in to the Square, it was a bit of grey space, dotted with a couple of benches that look like they had been nicked from a local park. There were 2 fountains and gum everywhere. I remember visiting the Square as a little girl and there were loads of pigeons there waiting for people to feed them. Now, it is a much cleaner, brighter area and they have even put some greenery to liven up the place. The fountains have been cleaned out and it seems like a much more pleasant place to have a spot of lunch or a coffee, whatever tickles your fancy.
Italian Grill boast of having a Josper Grill and wood stone oven, now I don't know about you but when I hear that a restaurant has that kind of equipment, I naturally want to go there just to try out their pizza or steak!
The restaurant is quite spacious, with a contemporary feel. The full length windows allow for a great view of the square and allows plenty of light in to the restaurant. Very European and fast becoming a popular feature to many new restaurants in the UK. Having plenty of natural light in a restaurant makes it feel a lot less claustraphobic and hopefully in turn will create happier customers.
The waitress showed us to a lovely table that had a view of the open kitchen with its wood stone oven, although it wasn't next to a window, we still had a very nice view of the Square. She handed us the menus and told us she would be back with bread and water. That never came.
Now I would like to just point out that I couldn't care less if I got bread at the start of a meal as it can ruin your appetite before you even start but when a waiter tells me they will bring it over before taking our drinks, I kind of expect it to actually happen. Otherwise I would feel like we have been left out of the experience while others that came in after us enjoyed it.
Another waitress took our drinks order and only after that did we get the bread. The bread looks just like their pizza base, but cut in to strips - crisp with a slight chew. They provided an olive oil and balsamic dip for the bread; now I love that combo for dipping bread, but in my opinion when it's difficult for the bread to pick up any balsamic the result is just an oily bit of bread, but that is just purely personal taste.
They provide a simple lunch menu but I was in the mood for something from the a la carte menu with a bit more variety.
Myself and mum decided to share our starter and main because she is a very light eater. We decided to go for a Fritto Misto to start and a Spinach, Rocket and Ricotta cheese pizza for our main. M went for Carrot and Coriander soup to start and the Chicken Marsala Florentine for main.
The Fritto Misto has 2 sizes, one for individuals and one for sharing; I asked the waitress if the larger sharing platter was quite big and she said it would be better for the 2 of us because the smaller one is really designed for 1 person. Worried that the smaller one would be too small, we went with the bigger one. Big mistake!
The portion was big enough for 4 people to share as a starter!
The seafood was very fresh and there was a good selection of squid, king prawns, whitebait and baby octopus served with a very creamy aioli. The salad in the centre was seasoned really well, with a nice sweetness coming from the cabbage and onions - I probably would have eaten it all if there wasn't so much seafood to chow through. The plating is slightly on the rough side, which I think was what they wanted to go for but I think it would have looked slightly more appealing if it was plated better and not just chucked on. The crispy coating on the seafood was again seasoned really well and complimented the dish as a whole but I couldn't help but notice that the coating wasn't completely crisp and in fact was slightly soggy in places. It was also quite greasy so my guess is that the oil may not have been hot enough when frying the fritto misto so the batter couldn't crisp up properly and left quite a bit of grease on the plate. Not denying it though, the seafood was nice, just a shame about the frying process.
M's Carrot and Coriander soup was sweet and had a nice kick to it. He told me it was one of the best carrot soups he has had in a restaurant.
We didn't have to wait long for main courses to arrive after our starters and as the large pizza was put down, mother did notice the crust was quite well fired. In past experiences with well fired crusts, the thin pizzas were usually overdone and quite hard but as I went to put the cutter down in to the crust, it gave way nicely and cut very well. Although it was slightly darker in colour than the other pizzas I had seen being served around me, it was still a very good pizza. Fresh green spinach and rocket was piled on the top along with parmesan shavings, briefly hiding the ricotta and mozzarella cheese that had been placed very evenly on the beautifully thin base. Mother liked having the ricotta as it wasn't heavy and since she had picked the parmesan shavings off hers and on to my slices, she wasn't overloaded with cheese. The flavour of the Parmesan provides a salty element to the pizza hence adding depth, otherwise the pizza may have been slightly bland.
Thanks to the humungous starter, I only managed to eat a few slices while mother managed 2. Yes, 2 slices!
Needless to say, I asked the waitress to box up the rest for me to take home.
M's Chicken Marsala looked very tasty and I was very impressed that they even cooked it with the skin left on the chicken in order to keep the meat moist. It came with a very tasty garlic mash that M thoroughly enjoyed but he couldn't finish his chicken as he found it a bit too salty. He hadn't told me this until we got home because he is annoying that way so I was unable to notify the waitress when she had asked if the meal was okay.
None of us were able to have desserts this time around but I will definitely make sure I have room to try it out on my next visit. It shouldn't be too long a wait for that as my brother would like to give this place a try with his kids very soon.
Yes, the food I had at Italian Grill could do with some minor improvements but all in all, it was a decent meal in a lovely central location and it is definitely a place people should consider trying out instead of going to other sub par eateries in the centre (not dropping names but most people who work and live in dundee will know which ones I mean).
Italian Grill obviously care about the food they serve and the staff are all friendly and very polite.
They have had such a success with Henry's and The Meathouse that I have very high hopes for the future of Italian Grill - I wish the team all the very best with their beautiful restaurant.