In recent years the area around the Peace Gardens and Winter Garden has become the city centre’s restaurant hub.
Among the plethora of eateries in this part of the city centre is Mediterranean restaurant Ego.
We have been to Ego a few times now, usually for a prix fixe lunch or pre-theatre meal, and every time we have found it to be busy, lively and vibrant
This was once again the case on our latest visit - this time sampling some of the dishes from the a la carte menu.
There were some large groups in on work Christmas parties but also smaller groups as well as couples.
Ego is light and airy and being right next to the magnificent Winter Garden makes the atmosphere and environment even more special.
If you prefer a sombre and quieter atmosphere then maybe this restaurant isn’t for you but it has to be said that thanks to the acoustics despite the hustle and bustle of the place a couple can easily dine together and chat across the table without having to raise their voices.
The a la carte menu at Ego offers a range of dishes from across the Mediterranean - from Spain to Greece, and from Italy to Morocco.
For starters we journeyed to Greece in the form of a meze sharing platter for two (£13.95).
On the board were chicken souvlaki, lamb kofta, deep fried halloumi, fattouche salad, pitta, hummus, tzatziki and mixed olives.
The ladies on the table next to us looked on enviously.
The stand-out items on the platter were the lamb kofta. They were soft, meaty and spicy with the earthy warmth of cumin and coriander coming right through them.
But to be fair, it was all very moreish. The halloumi in particular was great, as was the chicken.
Other starter options on the menu include prawn cocktail (£5.95), salmon and dill fishcake (£6.75), grilled goats cheese (£6.45), calamari (£6.45) and moules marinieres (£7.45).
Whenever you have a really good starter it inevitably raises expectations for the main course.
There were plenty of tantalising options including pan roasted chicken supreme (£15,.95), sea bass (£16.95), roasted lamb rump (£17.95), lemon chicken Milanese (£15.95), confit duck leg (£16.45), cod loin (£16.95) and butternut squash and spinach tart (£12.95).
There are also a selection of pasta dishes, pizzas and steaks on offer.
But in the end i went for Iberian belly pork (£16.95), while Tracy went for the Adalucian pork fillet (£17.45).
Bizarrely, the couple of the table next to us had ordered exactly the same two dishes and they arrived at our respective tables minutes apart. But I digress.
Our plates were both very nicely represented and we couldn’t wait to tuck in.
My belly pork was honey glazed and slow roasted and served with chorizo and black pudding with a thyme red wine jus and parmentier potatoes.
The skin of the pork was seared wonderfully leaving it thin and delightfully crisp.
The pork itself virtually melted in my mouth and blended perfectly with the spicy, smoky chorizo and salty black pudding.
The sweetness of the jus cut through it all and added great balance to the dish.
As for the parmentier potatoes, they were good for the most part although a few of them were slightly on the al dente side for my liking.
Overall though the dish was a triumph - a combination of some of my favourite things all on one plate.
Tracy’s pork fillet was wrapped in prosciutto, pan roasted and served on spinach with apricot sherry cream sauce and dauphinoise potatoes.
It is fair to say she was very happy with it Her only slight quibble was that - like my parmentiers - the dauphinoise was a little bit on the al dente side.
Overall we both enjoyed our mains even more than the meze starter.
So what about dessert?
After the deep richness of my belly pork dish I needed something a bit lighter to finish off with.
For that reason I went for an old favourite of mine - creme brulee (£5.45).
It had the classic crunchy top and a delicious light filling. I couldn’t ask for any more.
My other half went for the sticky toffee pudding (£6.45) and she polished it off with gusto so I assume it was to her satisfaction.
Other dessert options include warm chocolate brownie (£6.25), Sicilian lemon tart (£5.95), pecan pie (£6.45), tiramisu (£5.85) and sharing cheese board (£13.95).
Our three courses, including a couple of glasses of prosecco, a bottle of red and two coffees came in at £98. Excellent value considering what we’d had.
Add to this the fact the staff really looked after us and it doesn’t take much working out why Ego is always so busy.
l Ego, 88 Surrey Street.
Tel: 0114 2782004