SINCE opening in Milford just over a year ago Ray’s Italian Kitchen has carved out a solid reputation for its warm and welcoming vibe, excellent and imaginative food and first-class service.
Run by local businesswoman Stacey Crouch, who was previously at the helm of a number of other successful local eateries, the ethos of Ray’s is all about serving authentic Italian inspired food whilst celebrating the very best of local produce.
Ray’s is named after Stacey’s dad who was she describes fondly as “one of her greatest supporters”.
She said: “I know he would be really proud of what I’m doing here – the first year has been all about trying different things to see what works best. I’m really pleased with how it’s gone and with how much support we have received from the community.”
“We have just launched a new lunch menu in January which has been incredibly popular – so that is something we will definitely continue with.”
Step inside the lovely glass fronted restaurant and first impressions are good – combining contemporary furniture with rustic touches, the interior is warm and welcoming with bold tones of blue and gold.
Diners have various options including comfortable booths, café style tables and high window seats which are ideal for sharing tapas and watching the world go by.
To the rear of the main restaurant is an impressive open kitchen featuring an authentic pizza oven, and well-stocked bar area. Behind that sits a sunny courtyard garden which is used for al fresco dining during the summer months.
The main menu offers an array of delicious pizza and pasta dishes as well as sharing platters, small plates and specials of the day.
But for those visiting at lunchtime the set menu offers a tempting array of options for a fixed price of £15 for two courses or £18.50 for three courses to include a glass of wine, or soft drink alternative.
After being greeted warmly by Stacey on our lunchtime visit we were shown to a cosy booth where we spent some time perusing the starter options before I settled on deep fried whitebait dusted with smoked paprika and served with creamy garlic mayo, and my friend chose the fungi al aglio.
Our starters arrived promptly, and we were not disappointed. My portion of whitebait was extremely generous, and the tiny fish were beautifully prepared in a perfectly crispy batter.
My friend was equally enamoured with her choice and especially enjoyed the creamy white wine, garlic and paprika sauce which the button mushrooms were served in. Her dish was accompanied by warm chargrilled bread.
Other starter options included soup of the day, courgette bruschetta with basil pesto and turkey pancetta ravioli served with sage butter.
The list of main courses also offered several tempting choices including tagliatelle bolognaise and linguine with chorizo, red onion and basil, but in the end I opted for the vegetarian flatbread and my friend settled on haddock with new potatoes.
Extremely pleased with her main course option my companion described the haddock fillet as beautifully tender with a crispy skin which was perfectly complimented by the wonderful creamy white wine and chive sauce.
Again the portion size was generous and the dish was came with a crushed new potatoes and tender griddle cooked green beans.
My vegetarian flatbread pizza was also incredibly good – bringing together a slightly unusual but winning combination of sweet butternut squash, sliced filed mushrooms, onions, pumpkin seeds and chilli flakes topped with Italian mozzarella.
Served with a fresh leaf salad it was perfectly cooked and just the right size for lunchtime.
Feeling pretty full up by now, we paused to enjoy the lovely welcoming atmosphere, and heard other dinners enthusing about the excellent set menu with one booking in to return later in the week.
Turning our attention to desserts, I chose the raspberry panna cotta which was light and creamy without being overly sweet. Served with a homemade shortbread finger it was a lovely end to a delicious meal.
My friend chose the dessert of the day – a warm golden homemade pineapple cake which she described as light and beautifully moist with a tangy contrast.
Ray’s relaxing and welcoming vibe was just perfect for a lovely leisurely lunch. The quality of food and attention to detail was excellent, and the imaginative and colourful choices insured there were plenty of options to suit all tastes, as well as providing great value for money.
As well as the lunch time set menu Ray’s also runs regular lunchtime and afternoon specials such as a live music showcases on Saturday 22nd February and Saturday 7th March.
For a chance to win lunch for two at Ray’s, pick up a copy of the 7th February edition of the A&T – in the shops now for 70p.