Malcolm Warne returns to Yarm’s Uno Ristorante for a second attempt at Italian fare

REWIND five weeks. You may recall a visit to Uno Momento in Darlington which was in lieu of a visit to Uno in Yarm, a relative newcomer to the trendiest High Street in these parts and hitherto unreviewed.

But we had booked on the Saturday of Yarm Fair week and hadn’t bargained for the impossibility of a) getting to the High Street, and b) finding somewhere to park within half an hour’s walk. Silly us.

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So we turned tail and headed back to Darlington to discover, not unreasonably, that on a Saturday evening restaurant tables were at a premium. Uno Momento was the last resort – and not a particularly memorable one at that.

We went back to Yarm last Saturday to give Uno the once-over and parked literally outside the front door. A good start. A good omen even?

It was jammed, but having turned over a new leaf, and determined to be sensible, we had taken the precaution of booking. We were quickly seated at our table with menus. They were long, comprehensive in offering Italian classics, and looked decidedly familiar – as did the green neon recessed ceiling lighting. Was Uno and Uno Momento the same thing we wondered?

Inquiries revealed the answer to be yes – and no. The people running the Uno restaurants in Middlesbrough and Yarm used to be involved in the Uno Momento restaurants in Darlington and Stokesley. But now they are not.

With that cleared up and reconciled to the strong feeling of déjà vu, we started wading through the pizzas, pastas, burgers, steaks, chicken dishes and the seafood as the noise around us ramped up. Nowhere in Yarm on a Saturday night is ever relaxed, with the exception of Muse perhaps, but this was full-on cacophony. Avoid if planning a romantic tete-a-tete.

Sylvia thought she would choose one dish that she had eaten at the Darlington restaurant to do a direct comparison. This, of course, presupposed that she could remember the precise qualities of the spicy prawns (£4.95) first time round.

She certainly enjoyed the bread-crumbed and deep fried Darlington version and the Yarm prawns were equally as good if not better, served in identical style with garlic mayonnaise and sweet chill dips, a handful of rocket and a slice of lemon.

I asked for a starter-sized portion of spaghetti puttanesca (£6.95). I’m not sure something got lost in translation or the general din, but I was presented with a generous bowlful – certainly enough for a main course serving.

Initially, I thought I would not eat it all for fear of killing my appetite for the main course, but this was actually too good to leave. Properly al dente pasta and a simple, fresh sauce made with nicely ripe cherry tomatoes, chilli, capers, garlic and oregano just disappeared before I knew it. Possibly the best restaurant pasta I’ve had in a long time, it could only have been improved by beefing up the chilli a little and cutting back a tad on the capers, which were almost overpowering.

Sylvia was disappointed with her main choice – pollo pescatora (£10.95) – a pretty tasteless chicken breast fillet served with a prawn (yes, she does like her prawns), white wine and cream sauce which despite the presence of garlic and mixed peppers seem somewhat underpowered. The chips were good – crisp and chunky; the side salad just a bit dull.

My fillet of salmon (£13.95) was a hefty slab of firm-fleshed and perfectly-cooked fish served with some asparagus spears and a much more interesting white and cream sauce. There was another anonymous side salad, but the timbale of rice topped with a little tomato salsa was excellent.

The dessert menu (cheesecake, tiramisu, fudge cake) failed to excite Sylvia, but despite my pasta first course I went for what I hoped would be a really light pannacotta (£4.50). Sadly, which turned out to be more like a thick mousse made with too much gelatine. There was a side garnish of chopped strawberries, mango coulis and what looked and tasted suspiciously like UHT squirty cream.

Service was generally fine. There was a little delay at the beginning, but after that events unfolded at a reasonably brisk pace.

The bill was £52.75 and included a 200 ml bottle of Prosecco (£6.95) and a glass of the house white (£4.50).

We think it probably edged it on points over the Darlington restaurant which was fatally let down by its service. And given the seemingly unquenchable appetite for this traditional Italian fare (there are two other Italian restaurants in Yarm with a very similar offer), it will probably do well. It may not be Number One however.

Uno Ristorante

99 High Street, Yarm TS15 9BB

Tel: 01642 790661 Web: unoristorante.co.uk

Open: 10am-10pm Monday to Sunday

Disabled access. Gluten free options available.

Food quality: 3/5

Service: 3/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Value: 4/5