Are you feeling in need of a Mediterranean post-Christmas pick me up?
Well, if you can't stretch to a holiday on the continent, you can always experience a piece of Italy right here in Leicestershire.
Sapori in Anstey is a highly regarded restaurant with a string of awards to its name.
So, we decided it was about time we headed north west of Leicester to sample some of its award-winning delights.
In the heart of Anstey, Sapori Restaurant and Bar is an authentic Italian family business, run by head chef Andrea Scarpati, his wife, Cristina, and her brother Luigi.
Since opening in May 2011, Sapori has earned a number of awards, including Best Italian Establishment in England at the National Food Awards in 2015, Best National Italian Restaurant and Best Pasta at the English Italian Awards in 2016 and Best Pasta at the English Italian Awards in 2017.
Also in 2017, chef Andrea was selected to be a member of Chic - Charming Italian Chef - an association of great chefs (with more than 50 Michelin stars between them) which is dedicated to the cooking of traditional, yet innovative, Italian cuisine.
Sapori is a large, contemporary-style venue, with a bar and a separate restaurant, which we found immediately appealing, with flickering candles on the tables, atmospheric background music, and wafts of delicious-smelling food emanating from the open kitchen at the rear of the restaurant.
You'll notice the awards are proudly displayed on the wall as you enter the restaurant (along with a few Leicester Mercury cuttings) and quite rightly so!
Offering 'modern and elegant Italian flavours', the regularly changing menus are made using the freshest seasonal ingredients, and everything from the bread to the gelato is homemade.
The a la carte menu on the evening of our visit featured an impressive range of dishes - most of which sounded very tempting indeed.
Simon and I chose to begin with the caramelized onion and goat cheese bruschetta (£6.50) from the appetizers section, and the antipasti selection (£8.95) from the starters section.
Other appetizers available included marinated olives or garlic bread topped with melted mozzarella, while other starters included homemade chicken liver pate or chef Andrea's signature dish.
This is seven hours 'sous vide' (a method which involves food inside a vacuum-sealed container being slow cooked in water or steam) rock octopus, which is then grilled and served with 'pancotto' of broccoli in olive oil, garlic and chili, confit cherry tomatoes, and pickled red onions.
Having tasted octopus before, this was one option I was less tempted by.
The antipasti selection comprised a superb mix of Italian cured meats, olives, sundried tomatoes, deep fried goat cheese and lovely warm focaccia.
I was pretty impressed by the quirky plate too.
The bruschetta was wonderful - lovely chunks of grilled baguette topped with a generous amount of sweet caramelized onion and pieces of lovely creamy goat cheese.
For the main course, Simon plumped for the sous vide rump of lamb (£18.95) having been briefly swayed by the likes of pan-fried British beef fillet and oven roasted seabass.
I, meanwhile, focused my attention on the pasta section.
Afterall, Sapori has won the 'Best Pasta' award two years on the trot at the English Italian Awards. Options included lasagne and pappardelle with fresh salmon - but the one that caught my attention was the linguine with tiger prawns (£13.95).
And my word, it was a good choice.
The al dente linguine was delicious, served in a lovely tomato sauce with garlic, black olives and capers - and a welcome mild kick of chili.
The tiger prawns which topped the dish were beautifully cooked, and tasted succulent and sweet.
I just wished there was more than four as I could easily have eaten double the amount!
Simon's lamb - which was pan-fried having been cooked sous vide - elicited a 'wow' from both of us.
It was wonderfully moist and tender, served pink how we like it (though there is the option of having it well done).
The lamb was served with fondant shallots and celeriac, green peas and mint puree, and a goat cheese curd.
When it comes to dessert menus, if there's a tiramisu available, it's rare I don't order it. And being in an authentic Italian restaurant, how could I not try it?
Sapori's version (£6.50) certainly didn't disappoint.
Creamy and boozy, it tasted divine, and the shards of chocolate on top were a nice touch, which added to the visual appeal as well as the taste.
Simon's white chocolate cheesecake (£7.50) looked particularly stunning, with bright colours from the chunks of raspberry and orange jelly, and mixed berries sorbet.
Also topping the cheesecake were lovely thin dark chocolate crisps.
To be honest, white chocolate isn't my thing, and the base was a bit thinner than I like on a cheesecake. However, Simon was impressed, and wasted no time in polishing it off.
There's an array of wines, beers, spirits and cocktails to choose from.
Simon chose to have a glass of the fruity Argentinian Malbec (£4.95 for 175ml) whilst I opted for a more traditional Italian drink of Aperol Spritz (£7.50) - my first, and definitely not my last.
We also had a coffee each, which was very good.
The well presented food tasted wonderful, and we were impressed by the surroundings and the attentive and knowledgeable staff.
With our bill coming to £79.50, it's not cheap - but, given the quality of the food and the experience overall, you do feel you're getting value for money. For us, this is a place to head to for future special occasions.
Even if you don't have a Mediterranean holiday to look forward to, this slice of Italy is sure to bring a bit of sunshine into your life.
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Purchase & collect from the restaurant bar. Vouchers be purchased via telephone. Vouchers paid over the phone will be saved for collection.
Closed: Sun & Mon - all day | Tues & Wed - Lunch
(open Sundays for Special Occasions)
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