Din­ner at: Pir­cio

Bishop’s Stortford Turk­ish and Ital­ian res­tau­rant

Hertfordshire Life - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Richard Cawthorne PHO­TOS: Brian Arnopp

Google Pir­cio and the first words you see are ‘Ital­ian res­tau­rant’. TripAd­vi­sor goes one bet­ter: ‘Ital­ian, Turk­ish, veg­e­tar­i­an­friendly’. On Face­book, it’s ‘Mediter­ranean res­tau­rant in Bishop’s Stortford’. All things to all peo­ple, then.

A friend told me ahead of my visit Pir­cio was Turk­ish, which is fine by me, but the web­site had an­other sur­prise – click on ‘Menus’ and you will in­deed find a long list of Turk­ish favourites, some well known and some not so much. But then comes the mes­sage, ‘Check out our Ital­ian dishes on the other side’. Con­fused? You prob­a­bly will be.

Thing is, it works. The other thing to know about Pir­cio is it is huge. Housed in Bishop’s Stortford’s former Drill Hall in the town cen­tre, it of­fers up to 500 cov­ers on Fri­day and Satur­day evenings, though a fair pro­por­tion of those are out­side and there­fore weather-de­pen­dent. But on the sum­mer Satur­day evening of my visit, it was packed in­side and out, many of the happy din­ers clearly re­peat vis­i­tors.

Crowded restaurants are not among my favourites. Nearby cus­tomers de­scrib­ing their lat­est hol­i­days at the tops of their voices to their friends I can do with­out while I am eat­ing. Pir­cio gets away with it partly through a clever lay­out that cre­ates seat­ing ar­eas screened from one an­other and partly by its sheer ex­u­ber­ance. There might be a bit of a wait be­tween cour­ses on busy days but they seem to be up to it.

Our waiter cer­tainly was, dis­cussing the menu, de­liv­er­ing the food and check­ing how we liked it with the odd joke and light­ness of touch that cer­tainly im­pressed the ladies, along with the rest of us. Maybe we caught him on a good day, but I have known places with far fewer cov­ers where in­dif­fer­ent ser­vice that the res­tau­rant at­tempts to ex­cuse be­cause it’s busy can spoil the whole oc­ca­sion.

Pir­cio al­most full was cer­tainly noisy but it was fun to be part of it. I counted seven birth­days be­ing cel­e­brated – you can tell be­cause each one qual­i­fies for a cake, a can­dle, a funny hat and a song from the staff – and sev­eral other ob­vi­ously spe­cial oc­ca­sions too. It could have been an­noy­ing but in­stead it was bright, brash, bois­ter­ous and en­ter­tain­ing.

The menu matched the at­mos­phere. Al­ways pre­fer­ring the dif­fer­ent over the ev­ery­day, we went Turk­ish – or is it Mediter­ranean? – rather than Ital­ian but ei­ther way, the choice was lav­ish. Beet­root and quinoa tara­tor (£5.95, bot­tom right) was a suitably ex­otic starter, tara­tor usu­ally de­scribed as be­tween a soup and a dip but here thick­ened by the ad­di­tion of gar­lic yo­ghurt and dec­o­rated with pome­gran­ate. One of our party had just sam­pled this dish at Bar­bary in Covent Gar­den and it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent, as is the way with re­gional cuisines, but both were highly rated. An­other starter was char­grilled

spicy gar­lic Turk­ish beef sausage, known as Su­cuk (£5.95), an­other hit.

Among the mains, a lamb Isk­ender (£17.95, far left), caught the eye. Named for its cre­ator, Isk­ender Efendi, this had char­grilled cubes of lamb laid on a bed of diced bread coated with tomato sauce and yo­gurt. Like most of Pir­cio’s mains, it filled the plate and proved a sub­stan­tial and tasty treat. Equally pop­u­lar with the party were a spicy lamb pot (£17.95) with diced lamb cooked with onion, co­conut cream, gar­lic and a gin­ger-based spicy sauce and served with bul­gur pi­laf; and chicken shish kofte (£15.95, left), mar­i­nated chicken grilled on a skewer, also with bul­gur pi­laf and en­hanced with a salad and chilli sauce.

There were four of us but we barely scratched the sur­face of Pir­cio’s Turk­ish/ Mediter­ranean menu such was the va­ri­ety of dishes and quan­tity of food de­liv­ered with each. And we barely looked at the Ital­ian side. We’ll just have to go back.

The cost of this meal was £40 a head in­clud­ing drinks, cof­fee, fresh mint tea in a sil­ver pot, and ser­vice. This is an in­de­pen­dent re­view fea­tur­ing a res­tau­rant se­lected by our food and drink ed­i­tor. The res­tau­rant was not told it was be­ing re­viewed.

'It could have been an­noy­ing but it was bright, brash, bois­ter­ous and en­ter­tain­ing’

Pir­cioDrill HallMar­ket Square. Bishop’s Stortford CM23 3UU 01279 898181 pir­ciorestau­rant.com

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