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Best Bites: El Castello fine dining in Fleet

Customers enjoy tried and tested Italian dishes on "extensive menu" at Fleet's El Castello

El Castello manager Kalina Penev with staff members Raffal, Luli and Julian

EL Castello, in Fleet, has  been serving up the finest food made from the freshest ingredients for 17 years.

Some of the dishes have been on the menu at the Fleet Road restaurant since almost the opening night due to their continued popularity.

Owner Kalina Penev said customer favourites include Pollo Positano – tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus, wild mushrooms, cream and parmesan; a funghi starter of mushrooms in Gorgonzola cheese, garlic, parmesan and white wine; and Risotto Pollo of rice with chicken, mushrooms, peppers, garlic and a touch of cream.

“All of these dishes have been on our menu for 16 years now because the customers have told us they love them,” said Kalina.

“In the beginning we used to change our menu every six months, then slowly our customers started having their favourite dishes and we were asked not to take certain ones off.

“Now we have a very extensive menu and pride ourselves on having one of the best wine lists in Hampshire.”

Kalina said ingredients are bought fresh and each dish on the menu is prepared in the kitchen.

“We bake our own bread and the dough is also made in-house,” she said. “We’ve offered wholemeal dough for our pizza for more than four years now, we have gluten free pasta and we are  very flexible with all dietary requirements.

“We are trying to give to our customers what they  fancy eating, even if it is not on the menu or if it is something that was on the menu and now isn’t.”

Kalina said more than 200 people have worked at the restaurant over the years.

“What is amazing is that some of the guys that opened the restaurant with us are now supplying us with wine or bringing their kids to eat here,” she added.

“I love my staff – most of them have been with us for more than nine years.

“They are all still very excited when we beat record takings or we have a very busy night and everything went smoothly.

“The boys in the kitchen never stop to amaze me with their ability to produce such high quality food under such pressure, especially at the weekends.”

Kalina said that when she and her husband, Ivan, became parents in 2004 they suddenly had a new outlook on life and going out, so El Castello became very child friendly.

“We have a kids’ menu and we have been running an offer for more than three years now for a small pizza or pasta, juice and ice cream for only £5,” said Kalina, who has a son called Aragorn, 10, and a five-year-old daughter called Elfira.

“We have a lot of regular customers that have become friends. We really try to listen to all the suggestions and recommendations of our customers.

“Being a family-run restaurant with long-standing staff makes it easier for us to implement some of the suggestions and to discuss the others.

“We have been looking for a loyalty scheme for a  long time and we are very excited to announce that from the beginning of May we will be offering cashback to our customers.”

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