ESSENTIALLY ITALIAN - Fumo, Cathedral Gardens, Birmingham

Ignore the leaking air conditioner dripping water on your daughter's head and focus on the food. That seemed to be the message from the maître d' at Fumo, when we called him over to point out the faulty blower above our table. A shrug of the shoulders and he was off to show another eager batch of diners to their table at this up market Italian restaurant.

Venetian tapas dishes come out of the kitchens as quick as you can place your order. The waiters come thick and fast with glorious plates of meatballs, tuna salads and mini pizzas. My daughter had booked a last minute birthday celebration and Fumo was the surprise venue. I was not disappointed and on entering this up market version of the San Carlo empire, I felt I was already back in Italy. It's not just a place for youngsters, over 60s can be young at heart and I felt 25 again, amongst the elegantly dressed '30 somethings' on a Friday night on the town.

They do not take bookings here, but a phone call advised us to arrive by 7.15pm and a table would be available. They were correct, but 30 minutes later all tables were occupied and there were other expectant diners perched at the bar ready for a table dash. A very extensive wine list starting at £19 a bottle was a short term distraction from the vast menu, as I spotted wines that are difficult to buy from supermarket shelves. We enjoyed a beautifully dry Trebbiano from the Abruzzo region of Italy, well, two bottles in fact!.

As for our food, we may have seemed greedy when ordering 12 dishes between four of us, but not only did we have a choice of tasty and genuine Italian dishes, they all seemed to compliment each other and were eaten without dissent. My only response to one of the enquiring and efficient Italian waiters was, 'can we have a bigger table', but like the leaking air con, there was simply a shoulder shrug!


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