It took several attempts but we eventually made it one very snowy evening for a meal at Viva, an Italian restaurant on the main road in Matlock. We love Italian cuisine and until recently it was our choice destination for holidays. When you think of Italy you think of their passion for food, not just for the everyday food of the worker; pizza and lasagna but also for the delicious sauces subtly flavoured with fresh herbs lovingly made to accompany local meat and fish, food to linger over.
Tahminay came to greet us at the door and gave us the choice of a window seat or one near the bar. Even though it was too cold outside to ‘people watch’, the brightly lit shops made for a pleasant view. Tahminay and her husband Sash have run Viva for the last three years, Sash receiving most of his training in Italian restaurants around the Midlands. Along the way he has gleaned the best from talented chefs until he could give his creativity full rein in his own restaurant. From quite an extensive new menu we chose the bruschetta speciale and the funghi con spinaci. These were exquisitely presented; the bruschetta had a lovely light texture and was piled high with sweet cherry tomatoes, caramelised onion, little pieces of mozzarella and rocket, all topped with Parma ham and a crisp basil leaf. There was a purée of mango, some reduced balsamic and a quenelle of green olive tapenade made with anchovies, a chef special.
The funghi con spinaci were piping hot and served with a Napoli sauce, dusted with parmesan shavings together with a slice of ciabatta bread. For our main courses we chose a traditional Italian calzone and a chicken dish. The manzo calzone was made from light pizza dough with no burnt edges or thick crust. Inside, it oozed with a homemade ragu sauce which contained strips of ham, salami, pepperoni and chunks of chicken. A winter salad accompanied this and although it was a man sized meal it wasn’t heavy in any way. A good sized portion too was my pollo sorpresa, served with a creamy sauce – the chicken was wrapped in Parma ham and topped with mozzarella which kept the meat moist while the oven bake gave the mozzarella a golden glow. A parmesan wafer and ribbons of crispy parsnip decorated the top and potato wedges were quirkily served as an accompaniment.
We had both thoroughly enjoyed our meals so far but decided to share a dessert so as to leave room for a coffee. This proved to be a wise decision as the slice of chocolate fudge cake was generous to say the least. Served warm, the sponge was rich and moist; the icing smooth and creamy, with a squiggle of cream and together with the portion of chocolate ice cream there was plenty to share. A pretty basket of spun sugar contained a selection of berries and as well as being visually very attractive, balanced the sweet chocolate perfectly. With a shot of iced limoncello to finish I realised that we hadn’t sampled the wine menu and although my husband enjoyed his Peroni very much, you do have to leave something for next time!
The chef’s attention to detail in his presentation is impressive and his creativity obvious, but Viva hasn’t lost the lovely relaxed atmosphere that will bring you back again and again. With its feet firmly on the ground they welcome families with children and couples alike with space to cater for all and you can call in just for a main course or make an evening of it. Open seven days a week, it is a place we feel we would like to know better.