What, with all these new chains opening up in Chelmsford, I can barely keep up! But one thing that will set a good restaurant apart from the others, since the food is is usually comparable, is the service. One of my main bug bears is the fact that there aren’t more independent places here, but when there are, it seems they struggle to get the service right too. Take for example A Canteen. It used to be a fab little place, perfect for a hungover weekend brunch. Then they expanded … too fast: huge premises, wildly long opening hours, three menus throughout the day at first, and new staff, who were awful. And the food went downhill too – with so large a choice, the chefs just couldn’t do it all, And the lack of communication between front of house and kitchen is still very poor.
Anyway, I digress. At many of the new chains, I have also experienced poor service. From tables not being served at the same time, some people having finished before others were served and the excuse being, “Well, we are very busy”, to poor knowledge of product from the waiting staff. At the press night at ASK, however, the staff and service was excellent. Way above anything else in Chelmsford. Staff were trained at the Billericay and Colchester restaurants for several weeks beforehand and comprised a mixture of experienced and new, which just seemed to work. Now, I know it was the press night and everyone was on best behaviour, but from product knowledge, personal experience and professionalism, to asking if we wanted the remnants boxed to take away without us asking, they were really superb. Difficult to find staff this good in when the market is saturated with new restaurants. We even received an email to say my partner had left his rucksack and that they had it safe for us to collect!
And the food wasn’t too bad either! I’ve never been to an Ask before and was pleasantly surprised. The new mixed antipasti board was delicious, the tomatoes served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge, so they actually had taste, and the mozzarella was soft, squishy and simply delicious. I chose a pizza with mixed salami which was exactly as expected…crisp and tasty, as was the super thin garlic bread we chose to accompany it. The OH decided on a meatball pasta, which was ok. A little more sauce would have gone down a treat as it was a bit dry, but came with a lovely side salad instead of having to order this separate and he ate it all.
But the real star of the show was the Etna Dessert – I'll let the picture speak for itself, but if you go, you must leave a pudding space for this!
The interior is the right side of industrial with open piping in the roof space but nicely finished wood and metal surroundings. There are a combination of booths and tables and plenty of space to fit buggies…always useful for a girly lunch!
Here’s what ASK had to say about the opening …
“The new restaurant features seating for 140 guests, with capacity for an additional 60 covers outside in the warmer months, overlooking the river Chelmer. The imposing glass frontage floods the restaurant with light during the daytime and showcases a very impressive hand built wooden staircase.
Serving a range of dishes from starters such as Butterfly King Prawns, Antipasti boards and Dough Balls to mains including stone baked pizzas, pasta and salads, busy Chelmsford shoppers will be spoilt for choice at ASK Italian. One of the highlights has to be the very ‘instagrammable’ Chocolate Etna dessert where hot toffee sauce is poured over a dark chocolate cup at your table to reveal a hidden scoop of vanilla gelato on top of a hot chocolate fondant.”
We’ll see how they cope over the festive period, but if you fancy it, all 3 ASK Italian Christmas menu options are available to view online here
Classico – 3 courses for £18.95
Festivo – 3 courses for £22.95 or 2 courses for £14.95 (Mon-Fri until 5pm)
Super Festivo – 3 courses for £24.95
I’ll be visiting again next time I’m in town for lunch…here’s hoping the service is just as good!
Disclaimer: Our meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions given are my own, honest and truthful.