WHEN I told my wife that I was taking her to Milan for her birthday she was overjoyed.
When I added that I meant the restaurant in West Kirby and not the glamorous world capital of fashion in Italy, her face fell a little.
Perhaps I should have made that a little clearer.
It had better be good, I thought, unfairly piling on added pressure to a restaurant we had never before visited.
Nearly a year on from having our fourth baby, any night out is greeted with elation chez Greenhalgh and so we certainly were ready to love it from what the Americans call the “get-go”.
Milan certainly looked good on paper, a friend and West Kirby resident having mentioned it and every online review having given it a glowing thumbs-up.
The restaurant is on Banks Road, which certainly gives clear evidence of why West Kirby is an aspirational area for many on the peninsular.
Full of bars, restaurants, art shops and general loveliness, it’s certainly easy to see the appeal of.
From the outside, Milan was clearly going to provide the kind of night Mrs G and I relish but so rarely get to enjoy.
The place was full to the rafters, with the clientele ranging from upwardly mobile twenty-somethings to moneyed fifty– and sixty-somethings who were clearly regulars at the place.
We were a little disgruntled at our table for two being situated directly opposite the absolute centre of the bar, which seemed to be being used by many customers in the same way they would in an actual bar.
That criticism aside, the rest of the evening was as enjoyable as we had hoped. Milan has a simple two courses for £16.95 menu, with small surcharges being added for the likes of fillet steak (£5) and piccatta of veal (£3).
The price does not, however, include the bread and olives appetisers, so we began with the baked bread (£2.75) and “taste of Sicily” olives (£2.75), which were both excellent, the olives especially meeting with particular approval from Mrs G, who enjoyed their less-bitter-than-your-average-olive taste.
For our starters proper, I had the lovely lasagne, my justified reasoning being that if a “real” restaurant has lasagne on its menu it is likely to be worth trying – while Mrs G had the absolutely glorious Caesar salad.
For our mains, I treated myself to the afore-mentioned fillet steak, while Mrs G went for calves liver, pan-fried with paprika, smoked chorizo and wild garlic butter.
We washed it all down with a fruity and rich (but not too rich) bottle of pinot noir.
Hers was beautiful, the liver thankfully destroying childhood memories of liver that tasted more like leather, while the accompaniments were perfectly complementary.
Mine was tasty, but not quite as perfect as I would have hoped for, but once again made me wonder whether there is some kind of a dispute in the chefs’ world as to what rare is and what medium rare is, as mine was not nearly rare enough.
To finish – a little excessive, yes, but it WAS my wife’s birthday – we shared the immaculately presented and terrifically tasty caramel custard (£5) and coffee (large espresso for me, filter coffee for her, both £2.25).
Ultimately, though, the best thing about Milan wasn’t the food. Good though it was, it wasn’t the kind of place you would say to friends “You HAVE to go there and try their...” (with the possible exception of the caramel custard).
The best thing was the atmosphere and the personal touch, with all diners being waited on at table by the manager, who also prepares the menu.
We shall certainly be returning, and the next time I tell Mrs G I am taking her to Milan, I’m sure she won’t be too disappointed if passports aren’t required.