Muddy Reviews: Unita 4
We brought out our inner Italian ‘Nonna’ with a hands-on artisanal pasta making lesson at Unita 4, a new authentic Italian restaurant that has recently arrived in Ashford…
Unita 4 is yet another string to the bow of Elwick Place, which was launched in the centre of Ashford in 2019, and this extensive leisure and restaurant development is now home to well-loved foodie destinations such as mega-food hall, Macknade, the new super stylish supper-club restaurant, The Gastronomist, as well as a Picturehouse cinema and Snug, a lifestyle brand with stores across Kent. With ample parking next door (plus free at night), you can find many excuses to keep coming back.
Following his success as a chef and restauranteur in South London, Damiano Vecchio (we told you it was authentic) is the Chef behind Unita 4 and he has 20 years’ experience, so you are in safe hands. Damiano brings a touch of his home region Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot – to Ashford and is passionate about creating delicious, freshly made pasta dishes and pizzas. Grazie a Dio for that…
We loved the stunning long brass bar, which has been designed with Aperitivo hour in mind, that is the main focal point of the restaurant. The space is industrial chic, with eye-catching Italian produce on display, and there is a terrace for outdoor dining too if you don’t mind the odd passing car and toot of horn – but hey, it adds to the genuine Italian experience.
There is a bonafide buzz (we visited mid-week and we were surprised at how busy it was) in the air and this is thanks to the open-plan kitchen area and bustling bar with Italian beers, prosecco and cocktails keeping everyone entertained. You could easily make an evening of it with girlfriends or go daytime with the kids.
We were invited to bring three friends to learn the art of pasta making. I have always been very accomplished at eating pasta, but I’m less au fait with the production skills involved so this was a very welcome proposition.
Unita 4 has a dedicated Pasta Making Workshop which sits pride of place at the front of the restaurant. This space is made from glass so you have an eagle-eyed view of the diners and when not in use for workshops, you can watch their chefs kneading, stretching and turning fresh dough into delicious pasta, ready to be drenched in tasty homemade tasty Italian sauces.
The very lovely Antonella, originally from Sardinia but has lived in Kent for the past 30 years, was our tutor for the session which kicked off with an Italian Aperitivo – an essential component of any cooking process.
During the two-hour course (with a good chatting to crafting ratio), we learnt about the different types of flours, techniques, and regional origins of pasta. You get the full hands-on experience of making your own dough, which we all agreed, is a very therapeutic activity. Stress management lends itself very nicely to rolling out dough, and stretching it, and the creative juices were switched on when it came to making our own pasta shapes.
Antonella had done some of the hard graft for us as the ingredients were already measured out, but it was still a welcome surprise to demystify the fact that you could make pasta at home, if you have the right ingredients. Yes, fancy pasta equipment is helpful, but we were also taught some very useful techniques using just a knife and fork for the pasta shapes which you could replicate with younger ones at home.
The additional beauty of the session is that you can take your creations home with you so the next day, you can nonchalantly whip up a fresh pasta meal for your friends or family. Favourites were the Ravioli (filled with pea, mint and ricotta) which is best served with a simple butter and herb sauce, and the gnocchetti which is typical of the pasta found in Sardinia.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
As our certificates were being made and pasta boxed up for going-home time, we were able to sit down in the restaurant and get stuck into Damiano’s Italian fayre.
We kicked off with deep-fried mini rice arancini balls, mozzarella and tomato (melt in the mouth) and Warm Buffalo Mozarella with marinated grilled courgettes and cherry tomatoes, which was washed down with a bottle of Sospiro Sangiovese Rosato.
The Strascinati pasta, with Spello lentils, mixed wild mushrooms, & truffle oil, is a vegan dish that came highly recommended by Antonella and whilst not being the most photogenic of dishes, it sure delivered on taste. We also opted for a Ricottina pizza (tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, grilled veg, mint), Spaghetti Vongole and the Ravioli of the Day which makes me foam at the mouth at the sheer memory of it.
The menu is not extensive but if anything, this reassures you that everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.
Our four forks then crossed horns fighting over our “Caprese Tart” pudding – chocolate and almond tart with vanilla ice cream. Perfetto!
You’ll want to know about the 2 for 1 cocktails from Monday to Thursday (1-4pm) and feast on its cocktail list, including the restaurant’s signature Negroni and Campari.
As you can well imagine, this is a tip-top place to take the younger generation especially with the Picturehouse cinema above you. The Kids menu is £7.50 for pizza/pasta, drink and an ice cream.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR? Families or a group of mates looking for a good foodie fix. The pasta making workshop was fantastic as a girls’ get-together but would equally work well for parent/child bonding time (providing they are aged 9 and above…) or an alternative date night?
NOT FOR? Those looking for a white tablecloth and a fine dining experience. Whilst the foodie is authentic and delicious, this place is all about having fun!
The price per person for the Pasta Class is £55 and if you wish to have lunch or supper after your class, relax with a drink and two-course lunch prepared and served in our restaurant (as we did), it is £90 per person.
UNITA 4, Elwick Place, Ashford, TN23 1AX, unita4.com, 01233 531980, firstname.lastname@example.org