Portofino (May 2003)
This is an archived article from 2003.
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It's hard to say, objectively, which is the Fylde's most popular restaurant. But take our (highly subjective) word for it that this stalwart of the Lytham dining scene is right up there. It celebrated its tenth anniversary in July last year and just keeps going from strength to strength. So much so that the owners were able to open another Lytham venue, Zest, late last year. Zest has brought to the Fylde a cosmopolitan café-bar chic that it was seriously lacking, but then that's a whole different story.
What is it then about Portofino that keeps the crowds coming back year on year? (After all, the restaurant game can be notoriously fickle). Is it the food? Italian cuisine has always been a big Fylde favourite but it's not like local diners have a limited choice (at last count, there were 41 Italian restaurants touting for your custom). The location? Well, Lytham may be one of the Fylde's most affluent enclaves but few Lytham eateries can boast Portofino's clout. The price? Nope - there's plenty of cheaper places around. Strangely enough, the magic ingredient might be something that's really not promoted in any significant way - the fact that Portofino is really two restaurants in one.
Take Pacific, for example, in Manchester's Chinatown, which makes much of its 'two kitchens, one concept' set-up with a traditional Chinese restaurant on one floor and modern Thai above. At Portofino, there are few clues from the busy, noisy ground-level trattoria that up above is a fine dining restaurant with its own kitchen, offering a very different dining experience. Downstairs is the place to be if you're after the standard pizza/pasta fare served in what can best be described as warm Mediterranean surroundings. Lots of earth tones, tables never too far apart, waiters shouting orders across the room in Italian to the pizza chef. Loads of atmosphere but perhaps not the best for a romantic tete-a-tete. There's a 2-course Supersaver menu available both at lunchtimes (£5.95) and at night (£7.95).
Head upstairs and you'll find the fine dining. No pizza here but some great upmarket Italian dining with an a la carte menu plus a good selection of daily specials. Fish is a speciality and if you're a fan of monkfish, sea bass, lobster, halibut and other fruits of the sea you'll find plenty here to keep you happy. White linen tablecloths set the tone for a more formal (although still very relaxed) dining experience. The food is complemented by a well-chosen wine list with lots of Italian bins. Order a half-decent bottle and they'll serve it in lovely big glasses. A must-try is the delightful Su Su Colli Tortonese (which you're unlikely to find elsewhere as it's produced in limited quantities by a friend of the owner back in northern Italy).
Tel: 01253 795890
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