WHILE it’s not something I often say, it was a relief to see the Stage Door Restaurant thronging with diners.
My better half and I had previously dined here on a blustery evening almost two years ago and had a rather uncomfortable meal alone in the vault-like eatery.
While the food was delicious and the staff were lovely, we found out the second time around that this restaurant comes alive when it’s busy.
With Amy Winehouse crooning through the speakers and diners engaged in warm conversation the atmosphere was both lively and celebratory.
The staff seemed to be celebrating that another night of satisfied pre-theatre diners were sent packing to HMT to enjoy Dirty Dancing.
And the leftovers, like my missus and I, were just enjoying our Saturday night in the Parisian dance-hall-themed restaurant.
After the drinks arrived and we'd scoffed the complimentary chilli olives and bread, we started studying the menu.
For two young professionals on a budget, the well-priced Early Evening menu was far too tempting.
Choosing a dessert over the slightly limited range of starters we both went for the two course £16 menu.
I chose the grilled breast of chicken on a bed of creamed polenta with roast garlic.
Katy, miffed that I’d got to the chicken first, opted for the grilled haddock served on pea risotto with cherry tomatoes.
However, when the well presented dish arrived, she was satisfied she'd made the right choice.
The fluffy and tangy pea risotto brought out the slightly bland fish and the bright green parsley jus added another dimension along with the tang of the ripe tomatoes.
This light dish with an interesting mixture of textures and a fusion of tastes left picky Katy satisfied – I know this because not a crumb was left.
My option was also a delicious combination.
The creamy polenta mash worked well with the crunch of the al dente broccoli.
The chicken breast was a perfect sized portion with a delicious crispy skin and a heap of moist white meat.
The rosemary jus, or gravy as us lay folk call it, was as subtle as I was hoping it would be – and the sprinkling of baked garlic cloves pleased me no end.
We also added a side helping of green beans sprinkled with parmesan, £3.
For the dessert, or Act Three as the menu says, Katy got me back by bagging the raspberry pavlova with mascarpone cream and raspberry compote.
I picked the vanilla panna cotta with gingered rhubarb.
Katy’s dish proved simplicity works best as the two contrasting flavours of the sharp tasting raspberries and sugary meringue made this dish bowl-scrapingly good.
So good in fact I had to sneak a taste when my other half went to the loo.
My panna cotta stuck to the winning formula of contrasting tangy and creamy.
The bitter gingered rhubarb along with the dense vanilla-bean panna cotta with the physalis on top was truly delicious.
Once the bill arrived with four Celebration sweets we were both at the right level of full.
And, like the Dirty Dancing troops before us, felt not only satisfied food-wise but also entertained.