The launch of a new restaurant in the city often causes excitement, but when it is opened by a MasterChef finalist, you know expectations will be high.
Eamonn Hunt, who came fifth out of a whopping 27,000 entrants in the hit TV series last year, opened The Bronze Pig in West Parade at the end of January.
The 30-seater restaurant is aimed at serving British dishes with a European twist, using high-quality local produce.
Curiously, by day the venue for the eatery is better known as A Taste Of Italy deli, with the restaurant side of the business taking over in the evening. Whether the combination can work long-term is up for debate, but what of the Bronze Pig?
My dining partner and I were impressed with the relaxed and confident greeting as we entered the premises. Taking charge at front of house was the very likable Pompeo Siracusa, Hunt's partner in this venture.
The fact the menu was limited to four dishes for each of the three courses may not be to everyone's liking, but, with the onus very much on quality, not quantity, for me this ticked all the right boxes.
The menu itself, we were told, changes at least once a week, with the chef often taking advantage when good local produce comes available.
Similarly, the choice of wine by the glass was limited, however the house red wine – a montepulciano from the Italian Abruzzo region, was smooth and complemented the food perfectly.
As we waited for our food to arrive, we took in the atmosphere of the Bronze Pig. It came as no surprise to learn that Hunt and Siracusa had been responsible for around twenty pop-up restaurants over the summer of 2012.
This set-up had a decidedly temporary feel to it with all the signs of the daytime deli still in play and a background hum from the kitchen mixing with the classical music making diners feel relaxed.
To start we chose the charcuterie of the deli's own cured meats, and the ham hock terrine. Both were served with pickled vegetables – the charcuterie with soft pickled red onion and the terrine with pickled onion, gherkin and carrot plus a piccalilli and wholegrain mustard.
The quality of the meat in both starters was superb. Warm bread rolls and creamy butter served alongside them helped balance out the pickles, which could have been overpowering.
For our mains we chose the tenderloin of pork and the slow cooked beef in ale – the quality of the meat could not have been better.
The pork was stuffed with prune, basil, pine nut and anchovy, which made a tasty combination, but packing the real flavour punch was the accompanying Guiness and cider reduction.
Beautifully sautéed and seasoned new potatoes and fresh greens made this a great all round plateful. For me the inclusion of a 'herb crust' was unnecessary and a little chewy.
The beef in ale was a hearty dish but don't be fooled into thinking this was pub grub. The flavours were subtle, and while the beef was the main attraction, the creamy smooth mash demanded to be noticed. It was excellent.
Cabbage was the original choice of vegetable with this dish, but chef had chosen tenderstem broccoli fresh from the market that morning. Another example of his flexibility and determination to offer good, local produce when available.
For dessert I chose Panna cotta with perfectly poached rhubarb pieces and syrup. The tender forced stems were delightful and served with ice cream and a sprinkle of crumble topping.
My partner opted for the Chocolate Delice which married a sweet praline crunchy base with a thick layer of pleasantly bitter chocolate cream.
Although not quite as dainty as a delice would usually be, this dessert just found the balance between being rich enough to be moreish but without being too heavy.
This could not be described as low cost dining, but I would challenge anyone to find serious fault with the food at the Bronze Pig – fresh, local, ingredients, cooked impeccably.
However, the surroundings may not be for everyone. My dining companion found the setting just didn't match the quality of food and ended up a little disappointed in the overall experience.
My feeling was that the small and rustic set up made this a unique and relaxed place to eat.
THE FOOD: Ham hock terrine £6.95, Charcuterie £6.95, Tenderloin of pork £15.95, Slow cooked beef and ale £15.95, Chocolate delice £6.95, Rhubarb panna cotta, two glasses of house red – Montepulciano
FINAL VERDICT: Calm and confident at front of house, quality local produce and beautifully cooked