Sure, Worcester city centre isn’t short of Italian restaurants, but for me something always seemed to be missing, a little lack lustre maybe? It’s that feeling you get when walking into a Ristorante Italiano whilst in Italy itself. The Italian people are always so welcoming and the food so simple. The passion that goes into the cooking and being made to feel like part of the family ingrains those memories into you. It’s no wonder that so many people agree that Italian food is the best in the world.
News spread wide and far that Italian restaurant, Sugo, had opened up in the Lamb & Flag Inn on The Tything, a pub where Sir Edward Elgar apparently was once thought to have frequented. Owned by Two Crafty Brewers, the restaurant is located upstairs and is open for dinner on Tuesday-Saturday 5-9pm and on Sunday 12-9pm. The smaller bar menu and pasta menu is available downstairs in the pub on Tuesday-Saturday 12-2.30pm – 5-9pm and on Sunday 12-9pm. We received an invite from The Lamb & Flag to try their lunch time menu, which prompted us to go and find out why locals were saying this was probably the best Italian restaurant in Worcester!
We were first in as the doors opened at midday and were welcomed by the bar man who immediately offered us some drinks. Whilst he poured, I had a good look around at the pub, which for some reason I don’t think I’ve ever been inside before. The décor was fun and quirky, with something to catch your eye on every wall and in every corner of each of the rooms. With our drinks we sat in the front part of the building and were given a warm welcome by Piera who runs the restaurant with her husband heading up Sugo’s kitchen. Piera offered us the full selection of lunch and dinner menus and said we could sit in the restaurant if we preferred. We decided to stay put where we were downstairs, but wanted to order from the main menu.
Any good Italian restaurant is going to dish up decent pasta, which of course we planned to try, but we were also intrigued by some of the fish dishes too. Our first choice as a starter was the Gamberoni Picanti (£9.50), described on the menu as spicy tiger prawns and asparagus in a butter and white wine sauce served with toasted Italian bread. Piera had passed us over to her ‘right hand woman’ who was now looking after us and bought over the plate which was filled with colour and bursting with freshness. I spent a few minutes admiring the presentation before disassembling and pulling off the head and tail of my butterflied prawn. The asparagus was still al dente and the tomatoes ripe and a deep red. There was just enough chilli to give a little kick, balanced by the fresh parsley which had been sprinkled on top. With 2 pieces of bread and 2 prawns each, the starter would be plenty to share between 2 people at lunch before tucking into a bowl of pasta. Highly recommended.
Our other starter choice was the Carpaccio Di Rana (£10), also a fish dish and possibly a more unusual selection for some. Thin slices of raw monkfish created a white carpet and a striking contrast against the dark grey plate it was presented on. Any carpaccio is all about the quality and freshness as well as the right seasoning, and Sugo had this spot on. The monkfish had a light, cool texture which was a marriage made in heaven with the chopped tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Where else in Worcester can you get a monkfish carpaccio? Last but in no way least I mention the mussels, which were not only a decorative addition, but also spotlessly clean and wonderfully meaty. An abundance of quality, love and care had gone into everything we had seen so far.
The pasta dishes can be ordered as a main or smaller portion. Mr R went with the traditional lasagne made with Bolognese sauce, opting for the smaller size (£7). There are loads of gushy words to describe the tastiness of this homemade Italian classic, but just one springs to mind on this occasion – ‘perfezione’. The lasagna was comfort food at its best, piping hot throughout and mouth-wateringly delicious. Without a doubt, the best lasagna we’ve had outside of Italy. The same goes for the Carbonara which was my choice (also the smaller size at £7.50). I love to make this at home, but often end up with scrambled eggs no matter what I do or how long I leave it to cool down first, so this was a real treat for me. Proper Carbonara made the Italian way, with fresh pasta cooked with precision. A minute either way can change the whole bowl, particularly with the less saucier pasta dishes. The portion sizes were ideal for lunch and we’d probably choose the smaller option for dinner so we could sample more of the starters too.
After lunch and a little chat with the staff, Piera took us upstairs to meet her husband and show us into the kitchen, which was tiny. They’ve done a really good job of making the most of the little space they have. The restaurant feels intimate, but with a few interior tricks also spacious and light. An outside terrace area is accessible from the restaurant, which I’m certain will be a great asset during the warmer months. Pictures on the walls show drawings of the refurbishment and transformation. A Perspex viewing panel in the floor is an unusual but funky design and another example of the character and unique style.
We’ll be going back in the evening to enjoy the restaurant experience upstairs and because there’s so much more we want to try from the menu. Although I’ve heard it’s already getting more difficult to book a table due to popularity, so make sure you book in advance especially on the weekends. You won’t find pizza here, mainly because the kitchen is pushed for space, but in my opinion Sugo is the best Italian restaurant Worcester has to offer right now. I sincerely wish everyone involved every bit of luck with the new venture. Bravo!
Cost: £34 (food only)
2 starters, 2 main dishes
Worcester, Worcestershire, United Kingdom – last visited in January 2018
Food hygiene rating – 5/5 very good – date of last inspection 29th September 2017
- Although we were invited by Sugo to visit we paid for our own food bill, however our drinks were complimentary.