Saturday, 20 December 2008

Villa Vinci, Newcastle, County Down

One was seated on the noble throne quite early this morning, when the ruddy door-bell rang. Typical, isn't it? His lordship, minding his own business and getting on with the job in hand. The old butler has been superannuated, you see, so there was nobody else to open the door. The mission was accomplished - as it were - at any rate.

I had a great time last night. The occasion was the annual NT Murlough/Strangford Lough staff Christmas dinner, at the Villa Vinci restaurant in the seaside resort town of Newcastle, County Down. Villa Vinci is situated where the former electricity showroom used to be, at the northern end of Main Street - number 31 - between Donard Street and Bryansford Avenue. They describe themselves as Mediterranean cuisine.

Incidentally, Newcastle's infrastructure has greatly improved since its makeover. The new granite pavements, stainless-steel seating and general layout is impressive.

I'd never been to Villa Vinci's before. Although it was dark by the time I arrived, Vinci's gives the impression of being light and airy; plenty of windows. It is contemporary in decor and ambiance; most agreeable.

After an aperitif, we all sat down. We numbered about two dozen. I was seated between two friends and colleagues, so we chatted the whole evening. I had a prawn cocktail as a starter: lots of juicy prawns mixed with plenty of sauce; a large, erect lettuce leaf protruding from the mixture; and several slivers of avocado. I enjoyed it. I noticed some others having melon and soup.

I had the traditional turkey with all the trimmings for my main course. Again, no complaints at all: generous slices of succulent turkey and lean ham; a little stuffing; about two Brussels sprouts; potatoes and carrot; two cocktails sausages wrapped in bacon; cranberry sauce. I ate the lot. Other options included duck and salmon.

Continuing with Tradition, I had plum pudding for dessert. It looked minuscule on the large plate; and it was sitting on a sea of custard with a strawberry. This sight was deceptive! The portion was perfect. The pudding was moist and flavoursome. My fellow-diners agreed.

The staff were all young, attentive and courteous. The restaurateur himself - presumably - brought a few complimentary bottles of wine to our table; and we finished off the dinner with tea or coffee.

Bearing in mind that there were two dozen of us; and that our dinner was being paid for, I thought it all very good indeed. I'd certainly return to Villa Vinci again. I don't know what the overall cost was; I think a figure of £17 per person was mentioned. It was good, though, and that's what matters. I, personally, heard no complaints at all.

I arrived home at about ten o'clock.

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