Home Bristolian We try outdoor dining at top Italian restaurant in Bristol

We try outdoor dining at top Italian restaurant in Bristol

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Arriving at Prego on Saturday evening was a bit like turning up at an old friend’s house for a long-awaited celebration dinner.

OK, we were dining outside under canvas on the Italian restaurant’s purpose-built new terrace but the welcome was as warming as the overhead heaters.

A miscommunication somewhere down the line even resulted in our waitress wishing one of us a happy birthday even though we’re a few weeks off from the next family milestone. It still gave us an excuse to order a glass of fizz. As if we needed an excuse.

But then Prego has always been one of those genuinely friendly, home-from-home restaurants where you just know you are in safe hands the moment you sit down.

Coronavirus restrictions have somewhat dampened the tenth anniversary celebrations of this much loved neighbourhood restaurant on the border between Westbury Park and Henleaze, but that hasn’t stopped owners Olly Gallery and Julian Faiello from holding their nerve and carrying on regardless.

We may be two weeks away from restaurants opening indoors but Prego’s covered, heated and fairylit terrace is a more than adequate solution.

Staggered sittings and perspex screens between booths large enough to seat six people means the restaurant can serve almost as many diners as they would have in normal circumstances.

Now that they’ve invested in the terrace, the future is looking even brighter as it potentially doubles the size of the restaurant once indoor dining is permitted and restrictions continue to be eased.

Prego was buzzing on the night we visited. Laughter filled the air as fist-bumping friends finally caught up in a restaurant setting where they could dress up, rather than under puffa jackets and bobble hats in a chilly back garden.

And, yes, the food more than matched the convivial hum.

There’s also a new head chef at Prego. Harry Dean has hotfooted it across the road from Little French but prior to that he cooked at the Lido and at Bell’s Diner back in the day.

Dean’s menu is hyper seasonal and his cooking has a lightness of touch, allowing tip top ingredients to do the heavy lifting.

Four thick spears of lightly chargrilled Wye Valley asparagus (£7.50) had been topped with shaved aged Parmesan, a splash of fruity balsamic vinegar and a dusting of crunchy fried breadcrumbs.

A milky puck of really good burrata (£6) was served atop a neat mound of soft, sweet grilled courgettes, again finished with Parmesan and blitzed pistachios.



Burrata served atop a neat mound of soft, sweet grilled courgettes

Plump pan-fried prawns (£8.50) still sizzling from the pan had been dressed with prawn oil and teamed with a refreshing fennel and lemon salad.

A robust and red wine-enriched ox cheek ragu (£16) with serious heft was mixed into dainty ribbons of malfadini pasta.

Asparagus turned up again with a precisely timed fillet of pan-fried bream (£18), thyme-flecked potatoes al forno and punchy salsa verde.



Fillet of pan-fried bream

Classic seared sirloin steak (£22) with a real depth of flavour was sliced into rosy fingers and accompanied by with a well-dressed tumble of sliced artichokes and rocket with yet more Parmesan (Prego’s cheese bill must be off the scale).



Classic seared sirloin steak

Rhubarb and almond pavlova (£6) with the correct balance between tart and sweet was the pick of the desserts, closely followed by a properly made tiramisu (£6.50) and a decent chocolate and rye ice cream sandwich with rhubarb sauce (£6).



Rhubarb and almond pavlova

There wasn’t a duff dish to be had and service was faultless and, I’m sure, delivered with a smile behind the face masks.

Sipping the last of the wine (we had a bottle of the excellent Negroamaro from Puglia in case you were wondering), I scanned the terrace of diners carousing and chortling, lapping up every last drop of newly regained freedoms.

It was a delicious reminder of just how much we’ve all missed eating in restaurants and a dinner that marked the return of some normality returning. It was well worth the wait.

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