Classical music and Italian food always seem to go together. Don't ask me why - maybe large opera singers warbling about love subliminally make one crave mounds of pasta.

So when a group of 12 of us decided to go for a meal before a classical concert in Ulverston a few weeks ago, Italian had to be the cuisine.

We met at Betulla's in Queen Street for 5pm - all hoping for a symphony of taste sensations and a concerto of conversation.

First, the surroundings. Betulla's has a great atmosphere, which somehow does indeed manage to give off those passionate Italian vibes. The restaurant is buzzy and busy, with smart decor and great lighting. It also has a really inviting kerb appeal, which many restaurants, despite offering great food and service, often do not.

We worked our way through a fair selection of the menu, with starters ranging from baked Camembert (£8 for two), to garlic mushrooms (£5.50), to king prawns in garlic (£6), to antipasti boards laden with meat, cheese, olives, hummus, prawns and bread (£7).

I was on the garlic mushrooms, which came in a deep cast iron pot and were covered in rocket and fresh Parmesan cheese. Digging into the creamy mushrooms was a delight - and there was plenty of crusty ciabatta to mop up the sauce. Absolutely yummy.

My husband Gordon had gone for the Misto board which for £7 was fantastic value. Beautiful cured meats, fresh olives and hummus, cheese, prawns, olives - you name it, there was plenty of it. Superb.

Bottles of red and white wine and jugs of water kept us all well provided on the liquid front, as we awaited our mains and caught up on each other's recent doings. By 6pm the restaurant was very busy and the convivial atmosphere was palpable.

Our mains duly arrived - again, with no gaps in service, and none of that awkward "Do start... Don't wait for me/let your food go cold" nonsense which often happens when a large group is eating out together.

Gordon (and others) had seafood linguine for £14, which was what I also expected to have. But a bowl of spicy meatballs in a Napoli sauce was delivered instead. I was disappointed at the seafood linguine no-show. However, firstly, this was no fault of the restaurant: the mistake on the order was entirely down to the member of our group who had placed the booking. Even though the mistake was ours, the staff offered to replace the dish for me - which earns them a huge tick for their positive and friendly attitude. Naturally, I declined this kind offer because the polpette in front of me looked so good. And, it really was excellent indeed. So good, that I would definitely order it again; and so good that I didn't remotely feel envious at the others' delighted oohs and aahs over their lovely seafood linguine.

Others in the group enjoyed their own dishes - including a creamy pasta carbonara and a delicious pesto penne. Not a single complaint from 12 people (none of us shrinking violets) is good going for any busy restaurant.

No room for puddings, as the concert kick-off was beckoning but we were all so stuffed with pasta and the like that we probably couldn't have fitted one in anyway.

With lots of the dishes in the happy hour offer, the final bill was very reasonable (not least because we had had a fair few bottles of wine). And we left feeling that Betulla's had been an excellent choice of venue for this pre-concert get-together. A very harmonious evening for everyone - in every sense of the word. Betulla's continues to hit the high notes.

Food 5

Service 5

Value 5

Atmosphere 5


Bags of Italian charm

Great food


Gets very busy early so walk-ins may be disappointed