We visited a restaurant in Birmingham as stunning as The Ivy - but in an Italian way

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This fantastic authentic Italian restaurant is right next door to The Ivy in Birmingham city centre

It’s the first time I’ve been inside Riva Blu - the huge Italian restaurant on Temple Row in Birmingham city centre.

It’s next door to The Ivy and the decor is just as stunning. Acqua marine seating brings the Italian Riviera vibes to urban life set off with gleaming gold pelmets and low lighting creating a classically cool atmosphere. They’ve also got a huge outdoor dining area looking out onto the best bits of Pigeon Park and Colmore Row too.

I’m not sure why I’ve never been before. The venue opened amid a fanfare before the pandemic with TV personality Gino di Campo fronting it. But he left some time ago while the same team remained in place - dedicated to offering guests the opportunity to enjoy the  ‘dolce vita’ – which means “the sweet life”.

It’s a huge contemporary space, all on one level. We visited on a Thursday evening and were warmly greeted with Italian charm the moment we entered the door.

We sat in one of the booths which was ideal, offering privacy to chill out with friends and relax and soak up the ambience. The pizza and pasta dishes were reasonably priced at around £15 and there were plenty of great dishes to try from all over Italy.

There’s also a secondi piatti selection of fish and meat dishes with some of the best the different Italian regions have to offer. Our waiter expertly helped us decide what to choose, with so many delicious options to make. The dishes were written as Italian with the descriptions on regular english.

Riva Blu restaurant and bar in Birmingham city centreRiva Blu restaurant and bar in Birmingham city centre
Riva Blu restaurant and bar in Birmingham city centre | Fionnuala Bourke

Our meal at Riva Blu in Birmingham city centre

We began our journey in Italian dining in Puglia, with the freshest most exceptional Puglian burrata served with basil pesto & grilled Italian vegetable salad served with toasted ciabatta.

I love burrata and always order it whenever I can and I am delighted to let you know this one was one of the best I’ve ever had. Oozing with goodness the fresh pesto and salad perfectly complemented its goodness. My friend enjoyed bruschetta. The sundried tomato bread dripped a glimmer of Italian sunshine to our table.

For my main I followed our waiter’s recommendation of Tonno Alla Griglia which, if you’re like me and don’t speak Italian, translates as grilled yellow fin tuna, with vine ripened tomatoes, capers, Leccino olives, chilli, basil & lemon. It’s not the kind of dish I usually go for, and it was fantastic to try something new. The tuna steak was incredible - fishy yet meaty and so flavoursome. We shared some tasty garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes and garlic baby spinach which was packed full of flavour.

 Tonno Alla Griglia at Riva Blu in Birmingham city centre Tonno Alla Griglia at Riva Blu in Birmingham city centre
Tonno Alla Griglia at Riva Blu in Birmingham city centre | Fionnuala Bourke

My friend opted for Naples staple Mortadella pizza with pistachio pesto, burrata cream & fresh basil. The sausage meat was divine and the burrata cream and basil were amazing accompaniments. The dough is created in house at Riva Blu by their own master baker - it was another expert touch for our stylish Italian adventure.

We thought it couldn’t get any better. But we were then treated to a hand made Tiramisu Al Limone from the Amalifi coast. It’s a twist on the classic tiramisu and was made fresh at our table with Amalfi limoncello cream and topped with a shavings from a huge fresh lemon - especially shipped over from the sunshine Italian region and served with chilled Amalfi limoncello. Desserts don’t come much better than this - and it was a real bargain at £15 for two.

Campari cocktails at Riva Blu restaurant and bar in BirminghamCampari cocktails at Riva Blu restaurant and bar in Birmingham
Campari cocktails at Riva Blu restaurant and bar in Birmingham | Fionnuala Bourke

Drinks at Riva Blu restaurant in Birmingham

It’s not just the food that is amazing at Riva Blu. The bar has a wonderful selection of cocktails, wines and beers to try. There are plenty of non-alcoholic choices too - if you don’t fancy drinking.

Before dinner we enjoyed a Campari Spritz - it was a refreshing change from Aperol Spritz and a fabulous introduction to the Riva Blu experience.

There’s a huge selection of wines, including prosecco. We enjoyed a glass of Verdicchio - lovely fresh flavoured white wine from central Italy which was bold enough to complement my tuna.

 Mortadella pizza at Riva Blu restaurant in Birmingham city centre Mortadella pizza at Riva Blu restaurant in Birmingham city centre
Mortadella pizza at Riva Blu restaurant in Birmingham city centre | Fionnuala Bourke

The verdict

I’m looking forward to going back to Riva Blu soon. I’ve still got the pasta to try, after all! It’s a fabulous space to spend time with friends and family and it’s great value for money. Definitely worth a visit, if you haven’t been before - just as stylish as The Ivy next door, but in an Italian way.