“ Address: 177-179 Perth Road / Dundee / Angus / DD2 1AS „
===Friends with Benefits===
So far 2013 has been pretty spiffy if you look past the terrible weather. I live in Scotland so I'm generally quite good at looking past the terrible weather. In February in between all the terrible weather we actually got a couple of really nice days which was rather nicely timed since my partner Allan and I had booked a venue for our engagement party. The party was a huge success with lots of people showing up and having a great time. We also came away with quite a pile of cards and presents. One of these presents was from our good friends Laura and Katie who had been incredibly thoughtful and gotten us a voucher for a local Italian restaurant so we could have a romantic meal out on them. We finally put a date on it and went out on the Friday the 8th of March to enjoy our meal!
===A bit about Don===
Don Micheles is an Italian Restaurant situated at the very top of the Perth Road (177-179) in Dundee. If anyone knows the area, they will know that it's the slightly posher end of the city centre. The front of the restaurant almost looks like it might be a take-away, but it's not. Inside you will an upside-down L shaped restaurant. The bar is on the left and is pretty well stocked (though doesn't serve alco-pops like blue wkd, boo) and the kitchen can be seen through a hatch in the wall at the back. I've heard about the place for a few years and they've won a few awards for good food and being generally a great place to eat. They are family friendly so you can take your kids along, though there isn't a lot for them to do while they are there so if they get bored easily you might want to consider somewhere else.
I would advise booking in advance especially if you are going at the weekend as the place was packed when we got there. If you want to do that, it's a simple phone call away on 01382 660600. They are open for lunch between 12pm and 2pm every day apart from Sunday and between 5pm to 10pm during the week and to 10:30pm Fridays and Saturdays, closing early at 9:30pm on a Sunday. The website tells me that they ARE open Christmas day too so you could easily arrange a meal there if you want to be a bit lazy. They serve a variety of Italian dishes covering pasta, steaks, seafood, vegetarian and they can even make a lot of dishes gluten free if you request it when you order.
The Perth Road is easily accessible by busses and taxis and you can usually get parked somewhere if you are willing to look around all the little side streets. It is a bit of a pain if you are driving if I'm being perfectly honest as the traffic isn't the quietest and the spaces are generally on the road, getting in the way of oncoming traffic. If you get a nice night and you don't mind walking it takes about 10-15 minutes from the city centre. We decided to walk into the city centre for a drink after our meal which we later realised was a mistake when we finally got in the door of a pub, soaking wet and freezing. Yay. Probably best stick with getting busses and taxis if you ask me! If you do wish to drive then the full address is as follows so you can Google/ sat nav it:
Don Michele / Italian Restaurant
177 - 179 Perth Road
Wheelchair access is possible as it's all on the ground floor though I would say that there are some pretty cramped areas so it may not be the most comfortable. I didn't see a disabled loo when I went to the toilets and the men's at least were too small for a wheelchair user. Not to say that there isn't one, just that I didn't see one. The staff are all quite helpful so if you did have any questions about accessibility I'd give them a call first.
When we arrived we were greeted by the staff and I told them we had a reservation. They took us to our table which was near the kitchens and let us take our seats before coming back to take our drinks order. Straight away I started to worry a little as we had been put next to a rather large table who had put their kids at the end our table was next to and the kids were starting to scream. Deep joy. My idea of a nice quiet night out in a romantic restaurant pretty much right out of the window then. Throw in that the table we were given was incredibly wobbly it wasn't the best start. I had a look around and saw there were no other free tables so we just had to put up with that. Hopefully the food would make up for it!
Décor wise it was alright. Archways and pillars and busts and cabinets full of wines and candles and angels decorate the place with some colourful Mediterranean artwork on the walls. It doesn't look incredibly neat but it does look warm and inviting at least. The toilets, rather oddly, are not signposted but instead are hidden behind a heavy brown curtain in an archway at the back of a restaurant. Pulling the curtains back will reveal another corridor in which the toilets live. I thought that was rather strange and the brown fuzzy curtain didn't do anything for the look of the place. It was rather funny watching people struggle with the curtain, however.
===The Epic Menu===
We were given the menus of which there were two. There is the special menu and the normal menu. They are both quite long and I found my eyes giving in a couple of times. As such I would really recommend having a look at the menu's online before you go so you have a good idea of what you want. Otherwise you'll end up doing what we did and sending the waiter away three times before we were actually ready to order. I've read shorter books!
The main issue I found is that because all of the names of the dishes are in Italian, I had to read the English description to get an idea of what each dish was. I couldn't just skim read. Throw in that you then had to work out if what you wanted was on the special menu that may save a lot of money. The special menu is basically a whittled down version of the full menu that comes with three courses, a free bottle of wine and is only £25 per person. The special menu is great value if you want the stuff on it so it's definitely worth a look. If you do want to give it a browse before hand the website is here: www.donmichele.co.uk/menu.php
===Start your engines, Allan===
Finally we decided what we were having and called the waiter over. Our starters took about ten minutes to come out once we had ordered which was brilliant. Allan went with a twelve inch pizza bread Foccacia di Parma (£5.25) which was basically a pizza with salt, Parma ham, rosemary and Parmesan shavings. The waiter did make a point of making him aware of the size of the dish when he realised it was a starter for one person so it's possible people usually get these to share. Allan ploughed on ahead and ordered it anyway. It arrived looking perfectly cooked, a nice light colour just before golden with the smell of rosemary following it. I had a little bite myself and it was delicious. The flavours were all quite subtle but worked very well together. The base was thin and fluffy with a slight crisp to the outside. A really perfect dish, though again, not one I would have considered as a starter for myself due to the size. Allan gave his starter five stars out of five so a total success there!
===My first bites===
I had swayed between a few different starters but ended up deciding on Funghi all Pate (£5.95). Strangely, this isn't on the online menu and is instead replaced with something that I never saw in the restaurant. Either way, it was breaded mushrooms stuffed with chicken liver pate with a balsamic vinegar reduction and a small dish of garlic mayo. When they arrived it was obvious the mushrooms had been deep-fried so I was curious how they would taste. The first one I bit into was decidedly bland. I would have thought the pate would give it a strong and prominent flavour but it didn't seem to do so. I dipped them in the vinegar reduction and that helped give it a little flavour, as did the quite potent garlic mayo but overall it was a bit lacking. Don't get me wrong, it was still completely edible and I liked it, it just wasn't as flavourful as I had hoped for. I ended up stealing some of Allan's leftover crusts and dipping them in my garlic mayo. I'd say it was three stars out of five for my starter.
===Allan's ever so mainly===
For his main, Allan decided to have Lasagne al forno (£9.95) which is a normal lasagne that most people will know and love, full of mince (assuming you don't buy it from somewhere dodgy) and flavour. He enjoyed every last bite of his lasagne especially the crust of cheese that had formed on the bottom of it. After raving about the nice thick cheese crust he moved on to scoffing the side of chips he had ordered with it. No horse jokes were made and he was happily stuffed! By this point, the table next to us had progressed from screaming children to old women laughing like jackhammers and taking one million photos with the brightest flash on the planet. We ended up having to cover our eyes for a minute or two while they continued being obnoxious. So romantic. As for Allan's main course, he rated it 4.5 stars out of five!
===My luxurious main===
Having been slightly underwhelmed by the starter I was wary of the main. I really hoped they pulled it off. I ordered Bistecca con Pancetta (£18.95) which is sirloin steak with a thin strip of Parma ham on top and bits of Italian bacon kicking about. All of this was in a thick red wine sauce and there were some baby onions (cocktail onions) sprinkled around. This dish comes with either seasonal veg (broccoli, blech) or chips so I went with the chips. After I got over my initial "Oh-my-god-my-steak-has-a-SKIN-on-it" blonde moment and remembered what I had ordered, I tucked right in. The baby onions were a little bit too tart for my liking but the rest of the dish was perfect. The steak itself was massive and the bacon wasn't overpowering the flavour. I had asked medium rare and it came out pretty much medium so I wasn't overly impressed as it lost some of the flavour I love, however, it was still nice. The meat wasn't tough and didn't cause me any issues, the fat on the edges melted in my mouth rather than being rubbery and horrible. The sauce it was in was quite good though possibly a little bit too thick.
The chips that both the main courses came with were delicious. At least to start with. Clearly home made, the chips tasted gorgeous; nice and fluffy in the middle with a crispy coat. I could taste the clean oil on them so I suspect they were deep fried. Chips fried in clean oil are brilliant so no complaints there. The only thing that made me go off them was that they were already salted when they came out. I like salt but it was just a little bit too much. After I got halfway through them my mouth started to shrivel up and hurt the build up of that salty flavour was making my mouth recoil from them and eventually I had to stop eating them. I would have preferred if they had not salted them and let me put just a little bit on them, that way I could have taken the blame if I made them too salty.
As it stands, though, I would still give my main meal four stars out of five so still a good meal despite the salt, onions and noisy obnoxious table right next to us who really just needed to eff off.
Mains over we asked to see the menu again for deserts. In the meanwhile I ordered our fourth set of drinks (Tequila and orange for me, Vodka and Coke in the cutest little glass Coke bottles for Allan) which arrived promptly. The table next to us had burst out into song and gotten their camera out for another round of blinding the bejesus out of the both of us while their kids started wailing as loudly as I would have liked to at that exact point. A few dirty glances were given. When we got the menu I was surprised at the very short sweet section. There really isn't a lot. What they have, however, is good.
Allan decided to try the Tiramisu (for around a fiver) since he loves the stuff. If you haven't had it, it's basically ladyfingers (sponge cake) that has been soaked in coffee layered with chocolate and wine flavoured goo that is usually made from mascarpone and egg yolks. I don't like it myself but Allan is a coffee fiend. He munched his way through it enjoying it. I tried a little bit but the lady finger just felt a little over processed to me. Allan agreed that it didn't taste as good as ones he's bought from the shops previously. He still enjoyed it, but gave it his lowest mark of the night at four stars out of five.
I usually go for cheesecake when there is one available, and there was, so I did (for around a fiver). It looked very pretty with a small amount of fruit on top, a strawberry at the side and some orangey flavoured syrup decorating the plate. A nice ball of creamy vanilla ice-cream sat by its side. The cheesecake itself was possibly the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. It was creamy, sweet, full of flavour. The base was the perfect consistency and complemented the cheesecake brilliantly. The let down was the fruit. Something I always moan about to Allan is that most fruit you get in the UK is disgusting. It's sour and flavourless at the best of times. I love fruit when I go abroad as it is so much sweeter and flavourful. I tend to find the only fruit that doesn't make my mouth screw up in the UK has to come from Marks and Spencers. The fruit they used on the plate was suffering from being far too sour. I took one bite and had to stop myself from spitting it out. Thankfully that was easily remedied by simply scraping the fruit from the top of the cheesecake and not eating it. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesecake and the ice-cream so I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5, losing half a star for the sour fruit.
The staff in the restaurant were rushed off their feet on the night we went in. That didn't stop them being polite and attentive from the moment we went in to the moment we left. The food all came out quickly and with a smile from the very good looking waiters. We spoke to all five of the people who where out in the restaurant that night through ordering and receiving our drinks and food and not one of them came across as anything but polite and professional. That's what I like to see!
===Going to the Gabinetto===
Something that must be up to standard in any restaurant is their toilet facilities. I cannot stand dirty toilets mainly because I can't pee when I'm surrounded by grossness. If I can't pee then I have to hold it in and I end up having a terrible night due to not being able to go to the toilet when I need to. Thankfully the toilets in Don Micheles are up to scratch. Despite being situated rather oddly in an un-signposted corridor behind a thick, brown, fuzzy curtain, they are well kept. Tiled from floor to ceiling with a private cubicle and taps the whole bathroom is decorated in a rather odd choice of photos; Nuns smoking, little boys drinking beer, someone peeing against a bus. Other than the odd choice of photos, the loos work fine. I didn't see a disabled loo but it's possible I just missed it. The men's probably wasn't big enough for a wheelchair.
===Paying the Price===
As I mentioned, we had a voucher from our friends so we weren't too worried about price. As such I went for one of the more expensive items. All the other pasta dishes and things were coming in nearer £10 a course instead of the £20 the steaks were landing at. As such you could probably find something to suit everyone at a price range that covers all the budget restraints. For our three course meal including 4 tequilas, 3 vodkas and a coffee we paid £76 all together. Thanks to the voucher we actually ended up paying £6. A little more expensive than we would usually come out at, but totally worth it.
The only real bad point of our night was the table next to us who were just bloody irritating. The wobbly table was a bit of a pain, but it was easily ignored once the tequila started flowing. The staff were lovely, the food was nice and the price was admittedly higher than we'd usually pay, but that's due to the fact we weren't making a point of spending within our means. I'd have probably not had a steak if I was paying for it myself! The toilets were well kept too which is one of my bug-bears so kudos to them. Overall I would give the place 4 stars out of 5. I can see us going back.