Emporio Artari, Touchwood

Slap bang in the heart of Touchwood, Emporio Artari is the latest Italian eatery from the people behind Lucarelli at the Mailbox.

There are challenges to creating an identity at Emporio Artari, more so than Lucarelli given it’s essentially in a shopping centre. However, they’ve made the best of it with privacy screens and a well-positioned bar, so it feels like you’re entering a restaurant rather than the atrium of a mall, and the buzz of Touchwood actually added to the lively vibe. The bar’s a thing of beauty and the crockery and accessories add personality.

The restaurant serves cicchetti (small plates), sharing platters, panini, pasta and on weekdays, an Italian afternoon tea which we sampled. Cocktails are a big thing, so we went for the bellini version rather than mere tea. Sandwiches aren’t the neatly sliced cucumber fingers you might expect from an average afternoon tea, but more inventive open sandwiches with punchy flavours such as mozzarella, tomato tapenade and olive – we could have snaffled a whole plate of these.

Parmesan mousse, ham and honey mustard are salty in the very the best of ways and moreish. Butternut squash pate and truffle pecorino cheese are smooth, balanced, sweet and earthy all at the same time. While smoked salmon, stracchino cheese and rocket were very good too, roasted mushroom, Asiago cheese and smoked ham was less so with one left on the plate – there’s always one.

Sweet treats were plentiful and pretty as a picture. There was a lemon mousse cake, strawberry and pistachio parfait, Amaretto and white chocolate soft sponge and a torta cappuccino. They all tasted great, but among the soft moussey textures we craved a bit of crunch. That came in the form of an absolutely knock out Aragostina, a crisp pastry shell with Amarena cherry and Chantilly cream – the top pick of the sweets. There was also a traditional scone with jam and cream that felt a bit surplus to requirements.

Afternoon tea is £25 per person which feels like a steal, the bellini version is £34.50 and Champagne afternoon tea is £35. As a convenient and indulgent pit-stop to break up a shopping trip, we reckon you can’t beat it.

EMPORIO ARTARI, Touchwood Shopping Centre, Homer Road, Solihull, B91 3GJ. Tel: 0121 704 9785