Travelling round the suburbs surrounding Doncaster doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence when it comes to finding a salubrious dining establishment. An endless supply of fried chicken huts and kebab shops cater for the burgeoning waste-line but fine dining is notable by its absence. There’s the odd exception, sure, but they seem to be getting harder and harder to find.
Enter the Trattoria Toscana, located on the rejuvenated Newlands Drive area of Scawsby and just off the stupendously busy York Road a few minutes out of town. What was once a disused dog-track and ‘stadium’ (in the loosest sense of the word), has given way to an up-market residential area of mock tudor styling and executive detached abodes. A small nest of disparate retail outlets has sprung up and alongside the ubiquitous fish and chip shop lies a neat hairdressers, a well-regarded wedding boutique and the Toscana.
The building is reminiscent of the those executive domiciles just around the corner mentioned earlier but has in fact been here for much longer. It’s changed hands many times in its lifetime but has settled quite nicely into its current role as an Italian restaurant, a role its had for quite a few years now. Dino, a self-proclaimed local ‘personality’ has been owner since 2008 having previously worked there as a waiter. Can ‘personalities’ be self-proclaimed? I’m not sure …
Inside, it’s all stone floors, checked table cloth and pleasingly, a good view onto the kitchen grill. There’s something reassuring about a kitchen that doesn’t hide itself from the patrons. The bar is small and the dining area a tight eclectic mix of table surrounded by typical Italian regalia.
We had booked late on a Saturday evening and arrived for our table at gone 10 o’clock and the party was in full swing. A couple of groups of revellers were seemingly competing for the title of Worlds Drunkest and Loudest Diner. It was more than a buzz, it was verging on raucous. Maybe a late Saturday evening supper was a little too late in the day to expect a quiet, intimate dining experience but there you go – you live and learn.
It’s an Italian so expect the usual array of pasta dishes and stone-baked pizzas but alongside those staples, sit more esoteric fayre such as crespellas (pancakes), moules mariniere and some much-recommended fillet steak dishes. Prices are a surprise for this part of town being higher than we expected. Starters go up to 8 pounds but some of the mains are nudging 18 quid. No doubt all those flash BMW’s parked nearby in perfectly manicured driveways have influenced the pricing structure.
It was supper after all and a full 3-course meal was off the cards. Not by the restaurant but rather by our fatigued bellies and tired minds. The glorious Mrs went for those crespellas that sounded too good to pass up, a chicken and mushroom concoction (£10.95) tittivating her tastebuds. I’d almost made my mind up before we arrived and only a cursory glance at the menu solidifed my decision. Home-made ravioli with braised beef in a tomato sauce (£10.95) was my supper of choice. An insilata mista, side salad, seemed a nice accompaniment at £2.95.
The tomato sauce to the ravioli I was expecting to be chunky and vibrant and fresh. It had been pureed, robbing it of a little vitality and resembling more of a soup. It was definitely tasty, just not quite the tomato fulmination I was expecting. The ravioli was quite delicious and cooked to ‘al dente’ perfection. The inside was beefy enough but could easily have accomodated more – it was a rather scant and miserly filling. It was nice, I just wanted more of it. What with the sauce and obligatory shake of parmesan and black pepper, the small amount beef lost its way somewhat.
The crespellas were living up to their grandiose aspirations. Served in the searingly hot dish it was cooked in, the creamy, cheesy coating hid a majestically generous portion of chicken and mushroom within. If anything, my wife said there were too *many* mushrooms which is something I’d disagree with. There can *never* be too many mushrooms. The chicken was fillet and the kitchen had managed to eek every last ounce of flavour from that normally subtle piece of bird. A job well done and dish of the night.
The side salad was decent enough but a little more imagination in the leaves are needed. Iceberg is good for crunch, not so much for flavour but the abundant red onions, radish and cucumber were most welcome, as was the sweet balsamic dressing. Nice.
We should have left it at that, time was getting on, some of the tables had been pushed to one side so a few gaggling harlots could lurch in (semi) time to New York, New York, and we were approaching critical mass in our tiredness. As the mains had been so good (and they were), we reasoned that a little dessert wouldn’t hurt much, would it? Tiramisu is always a good test. Easy to make and easy to make a mess of. Also, it’s something that can be bought-in and passed off as home-made but is anything but. Lemon Meringue that my wife ordered is the same. It’s easily frozen but will never ever match up to something lovingly prepared by ones own hands.
One taste of the Tiramisu revealed its defrosted origins. The cream was too dense, the alcohol noticeable by its absence and it just didn’t … ‘zing’. It was *only* average and for a tiramisu, that’s harsh. The lemon meringue didn’t fair any better with a teeth-searingly sweet topping that tasted like any frozen meringue you can buy from the supermarket freezer. Home-made meringue is in a class of its own, almost on the verge of toffee with a chewy texture and is so hard to replicate in a pre-frozen product. A little elbow-grease is all that is needed yet here, they’ve undone all that hard work attained with the mains.
The bill please, service and a conclusion
Service was rapid enough but quite often, the waiters seemed to have their minds elsewhere. A few times they walked past us despite our best ‘come hither and serve us’ stares. Perhaps they were eyeing up the boozy munters trying to shuffle to the loud music? It IS Doncaster after all and boozy munters are almost obligatory. I tell you, I’ve never seen so much poorly-hidden cellulite and illiterate ink since a badly-conceived trip to a local nightclub.
The bill amounted to £42 that included a small glass of wine, a soft drink and two (luke-warm) coffees at the end. If we hadn’t gone for the desserts (at £4.45 a pop), 30 quid or so would have seemed just about right. As it happened, the desserts tainted the experience and the raucousness left a bad taste. As mentioned, a late Saturday night was not the best time for a quiet supper but if we’d been feeling a little more enegetic, perhaps we would have made more light of it.
To conclude, the mains were excellent and the Trattoria Toscana only let itself down by virtue of its propensity for bought-in desserts. They can be forgiven for the boozed up locals as after all, the restaurant has to take on any patron in these austere times especially free-spending clientele who like a drink and a party. It’s just we could have done without it. Our problem? Possibly, but still …
It *does* come recommended and they do have some great offers mid-week including kids eat free, pasta and pancakes at reduced prices and the-like. It would most likely be a little quieter too, making it a more attractive proposition.
- Restaurant review: Elachi, Doncaster It has to be said, Armthorpe despite being the birth...
- Restaurant review: The Cheswold, Doncaster Chain-pubs have a lot to answer for when it comes...
- Restaurant review: Central Park, Doncaster Central Park, located in the rejuvinated Bradford Row area of...
- Restaurant review: Zest Bar and Grill Doncaster is renowned as a bit of a party town...
- Restaurant review: Oriental Palace, Doncaster, UK The decor, thankfully, is modern and takes its cue from...