LIVING near the town centre offers plenty of choices for dining out but I was in the mood for a hearty Italian meal and decided to try a restaurant which was literally just around the corner.

I invited a housemate to come along to give a second opinion and she agreed immediately after hearing the words ‘free’ and ‘food’ used in quick succession (one of the perks of being a reviewer is claiming the meal on expenses).

Without wishing to sound mean, La Carbonara doesn’t look like much from the outside – a few fairy lights over a sign and an Italian flag colour scheme distinguishes it from the residential properties that fill the rest of Westcott Place, but I’d walked past its entrance countless times without feeling enticed into stepping inside.

Once I did, however, I was surprised by the bright, warm and colourful space that can be found on the other side of a small porch-like room by the front door that feels a bit like an airlock.

We were quickly greeted by a friendly waiter and shown to our table.

Though the place was rather sparsely-attended on the weekday evening we visited, there was still enough chatter from the other diners, jaunty music from the speakers, and the odd burst of song from our waiter as he hurried between tables, to create a very pleasant atmosphere.

The decor was cute, cosy and homely. The walls were completely plastered in knick-knacks and memorabilia that brought to mind what TGI Friday's would look like if it was owned by an Italian, though not quite as tacky.

As for the menu, the specials were tempting, but I went for a garlic bread to start (£4.50) and a lasagne di carne (£10.50) for a main, while my housemate ordered mozzarella in carrozza (£6.95) and a Pizza Vegeteriana (£11.50).

She was impressed that the menu had its own section for vegetarian food, which saved her the effort of searching through every dish for a V symbol - a frequent frustration for her when visiting most restaurants.

After we ordered, she nipped to the toilets and, in-keeping with the spirit of our visit, offered a quick review of them when she returned: "They were alright, serviceable, though you wouldn't want to take a selfie in them."

This is exactly the sort of priceless insight that you just don't get when reviewing a restaurant on your own.

Speaking of which, my housemate loved her starter, especially its amazing tomato sauce and the gooeyness of the cheese. I tucked into my garlic bread, which was more of a small pizza, and after eating almost all of it and commenting that it was a bit dry, noticed a bowl with a generous dollop of garlic sauce that I'd completely missed.

The lasagne was an enormous lump with more than a dozen layers of pasta surrounded by a lava-like sauce, and my first flavourful bite was so delicious that I kept scalding my tongue because I was too impatient to wait for it to cool before tasting the rest.

My housemate noticed my alternating expressions of delight and agony with great concern, but I insisted I was ok and scooped up another forkful. Despite filling up on garlic bread pizza, I shoved more and more mouthfuls of lasagne into my gob until I started regretting it, then kept going. I couldn't quite conquer the lasagne-berg but I got pretty close.

The vegetarian pizza apparently looked slightly better than it tasted, but the base was not too thick or thin, and the toppings were good.

Despite both of us insisting that we couldn't eat another bite, we eagerly perused the desserts menu. The triple chocolate torte (£6.20) called to me but I could only stomach a smooth, small and slightly-pricey bowl of vanilla ice cream (£5.20), and my housemate had a creme brulee (£5.75).

This was her main disappointment of the evening - the top was nice and crispy but everything under it wasn't smooth and creamy enough.

Overall, we'd recommend visiting La Carbonara, a nice place with lovely people and very filling food.