SOMETIMES, the success of a restaurant depends just as much on the service you get as the food you are served.

La Margherita has been heaping wonderful Italian food onto the plates of delighted customers for nearly 40 years, first in the centre of Southampton, and now from its prime spot on the waterfront.

But it’s not just about great food; we had barely taken our seats by the striking floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbour before our sevenyear- old daughter had been presented with an enormous pink balloon.

Five minutes later, another waiter hurried over to make sure our 11- year-old didn’t feel left out – she received a crimson carnation.

Throughout our meal, the service was spot on; we were well taken care of without ever feeling pressured or intruded upon.

Luckily, the food wasn’t outshone by the wonderful view and faultless service. Featuring beautifully-presented modern and classic Italian dishes, the menu offers plenty to choose from. All the favourites are there, from spaghetti bolognese, pizzas, and risottos to a selection of fish and steak specials.

Children are well catered for, too, with their own dishes to choose from if they can’t manage the larger helpings on the main menu. Our youngest dipped in between both, choosing perfectly juicy, salty anchovies from the main menu for her starter, and a smaller bowl of rich and creamy tagliatelle carbonara for her main course.

Seafood specials of the day included Mazzancolle alla Margherita, a pile of large and succulent King prawns smothered in a sweet and smooth brandy cream sauce, which were polished off with indecent haste, and much finger-licking.

We also tried the Funghi di Bosco Selvaggio – wild mushrooms in white wine and garlic. It was a winning combination; the earthiness of the mushrooms set off well by the mild creamy sauce.

We moved on to an Italian classic of Spaghetti Meatballs, which could have been boring but was actually bursting with flavour. The subtle flavours in the Branzino – a pan-fried fillet of sea bass on a bed of saffron prawn risotto, worked really well, and the Pollo del Paldrone – chicken stuffed with Parma ham, pesto and spinach, was rich with basil and earthy, salty flavours.

We fought loudly over puddings and in the end everyone had a taste of the sticky chocolate mousse cake, a soft cloud of a tiramisu, a sweet banana and caramel slice, and a squidgy chocolate brownie.

It might have been the end of the meal, but it’s not the end of our acquaintance with La Margherita. Our seven-year-old has made a date to return for her eighth birthday – she’s definitely got a taste for la dolce vita.

La Margherita
Town Quay
023 8033 3390