Avanti, Main Street, Kirkby Lonsdale, LA6 2AH. 01524 273500, www.baravanti.com
I’d never been joined at the dinner table by an astronaut and a toucan before – until I ate at Avanti.
The glossy bar-restaurant on Kirkby Lonsdale’s quaint high street marks itself out from the many fine restaurants in this tourist trap by coating its walls with striking contemporary artwork.
The paintings and sculptures are as much a part of the restaurant as the menu, and can be perused up close on Avanti’s slick website.
Thus I found myself at a cosy table for two on a mezzanine level, overlooked by a giant oil portrait of said spaceman and his feathered friend.
Thankfully, Avanti avoids the pitfall of pretentiousness which can befall places with an emphasis on art.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and welcoming and Mr Eating Out and I were surprised at how busy and bustling it was on a Sunday evening.
Our friendly and efficient waitress presented us with a mammoth Mediterranean-themed menu, inspired by Spanish and Italian cuisine, as she took our drinks order.
Half-pint of Golden Best ale (£1.60) and a large house pinot grigio (£5.60) in hand, we decided to share a starter to save space for dessert.
The delicately-plated Anti Pasto (£5.90) arrived with generous lashings of serrano ham, slices of chorizo sausage and a heap of green and black olives.
With chunks of baguette for mopping up the thick creamy alioli, it was plenty for two to get started without filling up too quickly.
Mr Eating Out choose one of several home-made ravioli for his main, though it can also be served as a starter.
The bolognaise ravioli (£8.90) was not the biggest dish but it was full of flavour, with fresh spinach pasta parcels enveloping a rich, meaty sauce and cherry tomatoes, finished off with huge flakes of parmesan cheese.
My pancetta and spinach tagliatelle (£9.90) could almost have served two, so hefty was the bowlof pasta which arrived. The tomato and red pepper sauce was a delicious, warming treat, and with the handsome slivers of bacon, it felt like an Italian version of comfort food to be enjoyed in a rustic farmhouse somewhere on the Med.
For dessert (all £4.95), a distinctly un-Italian Eton Mess – a strawberry-laden, crunchy hit – for my dining companion, and a chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis for me. Eaten with enthusiasm this, the pudding striking a perfect balance between rich and sweet.
Avanti’s enjoyable food was matched by its welcoming, relaxed atmosphere to make it a stand-out spot in an area well-served with restaurants and bars. We’ll definitely be back.
Total bill £41.80.