For a birthday lunch I was asked to recommend a choice of 3 restaurants to go to, the criteria for these choices: firstly it couldn’t be too far away, secondly great food of course and thirdly it had to be child-friendly. From three restaurants we decided Leeds based Italian favourite, family run Diva would be the choice for a good birthday lunch. Located just off the main street in the heart of Pudsey in a listed stone building Diva has built a very faithful following amongst Leeds folk, and were Oliver Award winners for Best Italian Restaurant 2013.
What I expect from a good Italian restaurant is somewhere you feel relaxed and at home, run by people who are insanely passionate about home cooked food and love sharing it with people of all ages. It started off well as we were greeted very warmly by two gentlemen and ordered drinks in their cosy bar area. Being a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon we were asked if we’d like to sit and have our drinks outside, we took up the chance of sitting out while it lasted (it was the 1st day of Autumn and all and you never know how long it will last at the moment). When all the other guests arrived menus were brought out and drinks orders were taken quickly. Service from the team at Diva was very friendly and hospitable from the start, just what I was hoping for.
The menu at Diva has a lot of variety, full of quality Italian heartwarming and homely dishes, e.g. ribollita soup, aubergine parmigiana and lasagne alla toscana, the last two I can personally vouch for as they are spot on. On Sundays they offer a lunch menu, the Ala carte menu and a Bambinos menu for the little ones. From the minute you walk into the restaurant you get the sense that good service is very important here and they like to make sure that customers of all ages are catered for. Even though the option of dining outside was given to us, we decided to eat in the dining room instead so we could get the feel of the place. It was quite busy at the time so it created a nice atmosphere with a few other families having the same idea as us, and they obviously felt this was a good place to bring large families with children too. We’d already made our menu choices while drinking in the sun, so when we sat down at our table some lovely bottles of Italian wine were ordered and bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were brought over, just the start we wanted to get our mouths watering. Really yummy, lots of rosemary in the focaccia and with the rich olive oil I was seriously in danger of over facing myself even before the starters arrived, so I had to force myself to stop eating it!
The starters arrived not too long after and the first thing I was pleased about was that I had lots of toasted bread for my chicken liver pâté. I hate it when there isn’t enough and there’s loads of pâté left. It was very tasty, with a smooth texture rich in flavour, the accompanying shallot jam had a good balance of sticky, sweet and sourness to it. The other half had ordered dishes which were included in their gluten free section, the only trouble was that they put some bread with it, and when he checked with the kitchen they said it wasn’t actually gluten free bread. The rest of the starter of smoked duck was lovely but it was a shame it happened.
For our main course I recommended the roast porchetta, it seemed a popular choice with three of us ordering it, roast chicken, the roast of the day pork loin and chicken and spicy sausage skewers. From my point of view I really enjoyed my porchetta, well cooked with moist pork and a lovely crackling on the outside. The Italian roast potatoes are always are winner and the gravy is fantastic and full flavoured. I know I’m a creature of habit when it comes to ordering food, but this is one dish I won’t be veering away from, it really is so yummy!! The same mistake with the other half’s starter happened with his main course, he’d ordered the chicken breast with pancetta, listed as gluten free but unfortunately they added some bread again. Apart from this blip all the main courses were very much enjoyed, even the spaghetti bolognese from the Bambino menu was inhaled.
Desserts were up next and they offer a short list of classics like tiramisu, panna cotta and ice cream. Unfortunately the other half couldn’t indulge in his favourite panna cotta as they’d run out, but I really enjoyed my tiramisu. There was the perfect ratio of ladyfingers, coffee, mascarpone and a nice dusting of cocoa powder on top. My thoughts were echoed by one of my fellow diners opposite me who gushed over it as much as I did.
The desserts were a very good way to end what had been a lovely Sunday lunch. We were all satisfyingly full by the end of it and left very happy indeed.
Diva offers a reasonable early bird menu with starters at £5/6 and main courses at £10. The Sunday
lunch menu is even better value with starters between £4/5 and main courses £7-9 with a good choice between pizza, risotto, pasta and dishes like slow roasted porchetta. If you fancy it they have a cocktail lounge where you can relax, open to non-diners as well. If you are in Leeds city centre you can still get a eat some of the dishes at Diva as they have their fantastic Enoteca LIVINItaly at Granary Wharf. This also houses their on-site deli where produce like Italian meats and homemade sauces can be purchased.
Food: Excellent, well cooked, great choices from Italian classics to something a bit more adventurous. Just need to be extra careful with advertising gluten free dishes and then adding extras which aren’t gluten free.
Service: Staff are very hospitable, warm and friendly.
Atmosphere: Lovely setting to have a meal, cosy atmosphere with Italian music
in the background.