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Aió


What’s the antidote to the worst storms to hit the UK in the past two decades? Some Sardinian sunshine, of course, says LAURA ROWE


ARGUABLY AIÓ, BATH’S only Sardinian restaurant, really comes into its own on a


sunny day, when diners spill out onto the pavement in a typically Mediterranean fashion, slurping hot espressos or sipping on a chilled glass of limoncello. Still, there’s something distinctly comforting about its colourful menu at this time of the year too. The place shuns any trendy styling (you won’t find


exposed air vents, fisherman’s lamps or battered leather here) in favour of a traditional trattoria-style welcome. The name says it all: aió means “come and join us”. It’s awash with a warming palette of terracotta and golden creams, while a map of the Med takes pride of place opposite the bar. There’s an intimate dining area at the front, as well as a large space at the back, and a garden courtyard too: incredibly, this was packed on our visit, even though it was first Saturday of January, with wind, rain and all.


This is Italian food con a distinctly Sardinian slant, with the thinnest flatbreads, preserved fish and meat and comforting potato and mint ravioli with lamb ragu


We’d bagged a seat by the bar though, and settled in with the first Sardinian speciality on the menu, pane guttiau con olive (£4.50). This guttiau flatbread is known colloquially as ‘music sheets’, because it is so thin. It’s oven baked with rosemary, salt and olive oil and, as a result, dangerously moreish. A pot of plump, buttery Nocellara and sweet black Gaeta olives made for ideal pickings while we explored the rest of the menu. It’s traditional in Sardinia, as in


much of Italy, to kick things off with a platter of antipasti and, at only £8.95 a head, we figured it would have been rude not to. This came beautifully presented, with folds of pink cured hams and pearls of creamy white


buffalo mozzarella, punctuated by another Sardinian classic, Pecorino cheese, plus roasted red and yellow peppers and aubergines. The highlights, though, were the deep carmine slices of Sardinian mutton prosciutto and wild boar dry-cured sausage, which sung with savoury, game flavour.


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Gluttons that we are, we also ordered the tortino di baccalá e ricotta (£7.95). A savoury cheesecake made with salt cod (Sardinian is famed for its preserved meats and fish) and locally produced Westcombe Farm ricotta, it was light and smooth on top of a black biscuit base. Lemon zest added a little freshness, although with extra dots of anchovy-spiked tapenade it was a tad too fishy and salty for our palates. Main courses soon allayed any worries, though. I’d


opted for the authentic culurgiones all agnello (£13.50) ravioli dish on recommendation of Mauro, who co-owns the restaurant along with Salvo: it’s homemade from scratch each day. The pasta was soft and silky and the unusual smooth potato filling, spiked with fresh mint and Pecorino, were like pillows of comfort, made even more homely and rustic thanks to a slow-cooked lamb (sourced from Childhay Manor near Blandford in Dorset, via Larkhall Butchers) mince ragout. Ms Catering, my willing co-diner, opted for the special of the day, swordfish with homemade fettuccine (£12.50). All of the seafood at the restaurant is sourced from Brixham and Newlyn fish markets, and this was fresh and succulent, bathed in a rich tomato sauce packed with roasted Mediterranean veggies. A simple rocket salad with Parmesan shavings and balsamic vinegar was a little steeply priced at £4.50 in my opinion, but it was a fresh, clean partner nonetheless, while a bottle of red (Carignano del Sulcis from the south west of Sardinia, £24.70) washed it down beautifully. The portions here are huge, so if you can manage a dessert proper after all of that you are a better glutton than I, but we couldn’t leave without sampling the gelatos (£5.25) – pistachio, mango and vanilla. Sticky, sweet and marshmallowy, they were almost as good as those I sampled in Rome back in July. And next time I’ll save room for the panna cotta all zafferano…


✱ AIÓ, 7 Edgar Buildings, George Street, Bath BA1 2EE; 01225 443900; www.aiorestaurant.co.uk


Afters


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