Janito, Knowle, Solihull, Restaurant Review
17:03 04 February 2010
Warwickshire Life editor Colin Clark finds there's been more than just a change of name at Janito in Knowle.
The great thing about Knowle, if you're a diner, is that there are so many good places to choose from. The toughest thing about Knowle, if you are a restaurant owner, is standing out from the crowd.
At Janito I think we happened upon a little gem although, judging from the crowd in there on the midweek evening we visited, it appears we were not the first to make the discovery.
Nestled off the main street on a corner of St Johns Close, the place was taken over in September last year by brothers Antonio and Nino Barbieri, whose Italian parents had run the restaurant under a different name, for many years.
But the Brothers Barbieri were keen to put their own stamp on the restaurant and the first step was to bring in a third partner, Jacqui Deacon, already a well respected chef in Warwickshire.
Between them they have steered Janito down a Modern English with a twist of Italian country and a touch of French bistro sort of route - and a very nice journey it proves to be if you're eating there.
The outside of Janito - built, I would guess, in the sixties with very little imagination used by the architects - doesn't give you much of a clue as to what you will find inside.
But, once through the doors, you can relax in well designed comfort. Modern but not garish, cosy but not olde worlde, light pine furniture and plenty of space between tables gives an airy feel while still maintaining a cosy, intimate atmosphere.
So we like the place, now what about the food? Janito do an excellent two course set menu for 13, including a glass of house wine, but we thought we'd go for the main dinner menu and the superb specials board that accompanied it.
Roasted stuffed squid on a rocket and feta salad was fantastic. I can't remember squid being served to me in a better way than this. There is a good selection of starters on the main menu but if this is on the specials board take my advice and try it, you won't regret it.
Sue went for a duo of smoked salmon and baby spinach roulade from the main menu. Another excellent choice and, when you consider they were just a fiver each, great value for money.
Soup of the day at 4, a Mediterranean mixed platter to share at 8 and tiger king prawn and chorizo sausage with a Caesar salad at 6, were amongst the other starters on offer.
I returned to the specials board for my main course for the irresistible char-grilled marlin loin with tiger prawns. Beautifully cooked, the marlin was pink in the middle and full of flavour, the prawns were big and juicy - excellent. Fish plays a big part in the Janito menu and Jacqui assures me that a local supplier ensures they only receive the freshest and the best. After two fish dishes I can testify to that, absolutely!
Still on fish and Sue went for fish pie as a main course. Packed with cod, salmon and prawns in a creamy leek sauce and then topped with parmesan mash it was a sight to behold.
"Do people normally eat all of this," asked Sue when she saw the size of the dish presented to her.
"Well, yes, they do," replied the waitress, nodding towards the next table where a woman was finishing off her fish pie with a gusto that made me think she could have quite easily eaten another one.
Sue's attempt was not quite so impressive but, to give her credit, she tried her very best simply because it was all too good to leave. Lots of fish and plenty of flavour, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.
The high standards set by starters and mains were continued into desserts with my fruits of the forest roulade with meringue such a sticky, sweet treat that I immediately forgave it any calories it may have added to my waistline. Sue's chocolate fondant, warm on the inside, with ice cream and cream, was rich and luxurious and, even though under the "if you don't eat all of your dinner you won't get a pudding" rule, she should maybe not have been afforded the pleasure, she did finish with a very clean plate.
Over coffee, Jacqui and Antonio explained how things had gone since the relaunch and discussed plans for the future.
"We already have a good, loyal customer base but we ware always looking to attract more diners," says Antonio. "We know it's a tough business but we think we are providing the sort of food and ambience that brings people back time after time."
And although Jacqui is a chef with an enviable reputation don't think that she's not a down-to-earth Warwickshire girl at heart.
"We are proud of our menu but if someone says they really fancy cheese on toast or chips and egg then that's what they'll get. We're here to make sure our customers get exactly what they want. I wouldn't like to think I was cooking egg and chips on a regular basis but if that's what hits the spot on that particular night then that's all right with me," she says.
It is also worth noting that even after three courses, coffees and two drinks each our bill still only hit 61 - good food at these prices can only mean a successful future for Janito.
For further information call 01564 779802.