Pizza Express

So there I was needing a bite to eat, I had had no lunch and it was looking like that working late that night I wouldn’t have a chance to get anything decent to eat and would have to grab a takeaway…. didn’t fancy that.

Luckily I had in my pocket some spare Tesco Clubcard Reward vouchers that were about to expire, so I thought lets use these, have a really nice meal, but where?

Well (from the title of this blog posting) you guessed I went to Pizza Express. Using the vouchers does restrict you to specific places, I had considered Café Rouge, but traffic was bad and to be honest did I want to be disappointed again? So the only place left from which to choose was Pizza Express. I have been to Pizza Express quite a few times before and have enjoyed my meals there. I also quite like their range available in the supermarket.

I did consider not going, as the place was empty (well it was late afternoon) and I wasn’t really wanting to be the focus of all the staff as the sole eater in the establishment, however time was against me and I was hungry!

As I was hungry I decided to have a starter and though there was a fair bit of choice, I went in the end for the Calamari Al Forno, breaded calamari with house dressing.

So no rings here then! More chunks of squid that were breaded and cooked. I did like the presentation and it was a nice portion, not too small and not too big. Alas the calamari was a little chewy, partly I guess as it was either overcooked (unlikely) or double cooked (more likely). The house dressing was a wet mayonaise with probably too much vinegar, but there was lemon for those that like me who prefer that. I did eat them all up and did enjoy it, it’s just I know that calamari can be so much better than this, however this is much better than a lot of calamari I have had at other places.

After my started I went with a Romana Pizza Pollo Pancetta.

This pizza has a stretched very thin base, similar to those (allegedly) you can find in northern Italy. The base was covered in red pepper (peperonata) sauce and topped with chicken, yellow peppers and what was suppose to be crispy pancetta.

Not this was really nice, what I did like was that it had flavour, wasn’t salty (as some pizza places to do with their pizza) and looked great. The chicken looked to be real chicken that was ripped and placed on the pizza, rather than processed pre-sliced chicken you can find on some pizzas. The yellow peppers were nice and crunchy. However one slight problem, the crispy pancetta looked like it had been replaced with proscuttio! It was neither pancetta or crispy. I didn’t complain as it was still nice, but it would have been nice to be told that this is what they had done.

I was quite full at this point, however the waiter pointed out that they had a selection of small desserts served with a coffee. Now that sounded just right. So I went with the Caffé Merenghina and my choice of an Americano.

The dish comprised os a small individual lemon pastry tart topped with a, in my case, slightly droopy meringue. The tart was great, not too sweet and not too tart and just the right size. The coffee was also decent.

The bill (I already had a coffee) came to just £21 which wasn’t bad at all in my book for a really nice meal. I will be going again.

Calamari

I do like calamari, these from Bottelino’s was okay, certainly not the best I have ever had, but also not the worse. Would be nice if they were a little more authentic.

Though do compare this portion with this one.

Looks different. For me that’s a positive thing, means that this is not processed system cooking.

Calamari and Calzone

Went to Bottelino’s again.

For starters I had the calamari again.

I do like calamari, this was okay, certainly not the best I have ever had, but also not the worse. Would be nice if they were a little more authentic. Next time I go I must have something different, though looking at another table I don’t think I will go for the mushrooms. Quite liked the look of the anti pasta.

They do a lunchtime special at my local branch where any pizza or pasta is just £4.95, so I decided to try the calzone.

It comprises a pizza base folded and stuffed in this instance with bolognaise sauce and mozzarella cheese.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as other pizzas I have had at Bottelino’s, it was a little too rich for me.

Overall not the best experience I have had, but didn’t put me off going again.

Bottelino’s is an independent chain of Italian restaurants in Bristol and North Somerset.

Calamari

Once place I do seem to frequent a fair bit, is Bella Italia. Mainly as it is convenient and also they accept Tesco Clubcard deals. Yes it is a chain and they probably use some kind of step system for cooking, but compared to some traditional Italian places I have eaten it isn’t that bad.

One thing I seem to order from the menu a lot is the calamari.

They coat it in parmesan before deep frying it. Sometimes it can be overcooked (not how I like it) but generally they do get it right.

I also quite like the pasta and pizza at Bella Italia too.

Calamari

Ever since I visited Greece back in the beginning of the “noughties” I have been a fan “proper” calamari. As a result when I visit restaurants I like to order the calamari, however my often then not I get disappointed.

I recently visited Carluccio’s and ordered the calamari.

Alas it wasn’t fresh! As a result it was rubbery and nothing like when a restaurant uses fresh squid to make calamari.

Dodgy Italian

One of the problems I face when I stay away from home is where do I go to dinner. I am not a fan of hotel restaurants, generally I find they are overpriced and the quality can be poor.

I was recently in a hotel on the Gloucester Road and was not impressed with the menu, so decided to venture out and find somewhere to eat.

Well I wish I hadn’t…

I found what looked like a nice Italian restaurant, an interesting menu and was quite full (which I usually find is a good sign of quality) and went in.

Well I left very disappointed. It was an overpriced rubbish food experience.

I had a starter of calamari, which I initially thought was okay, but overall was disappointed as it was quite rubbery, it certainly wasn’t cooked from fresh, more likely deep fried from frozen.

My main course, spaghetti with clams was absolutely terrible. The sauce was obviously from a jar!

I couldn’t believe how bad the food was…

The couple on the table next to me ordered fish and chips, it looked worse than mine!

I had obviously entered a London tourist restaurant that caters for tourists.

I need to find some good places before I get to London in the future…

Calamari

Tonight I cooked some calamari (squid in batter) and was well impressed with the results, melt in your mouth.

If all you have ever eaten are the “bake” in the oven ready battered calamari or under the grill “cooked” squid rings, then cooking fresh squid is something you just have to try.

You will find there is no comparison.

So take some prepared squid; you can prepare it yourself, or ask your fishmonger or buy it freshly prepared.

In a bowl mix some self-raising flour, some milk and the yolk of an egg (or you can use a beer batter). I also added some grated parmesan (just to be different).

Then coat and cook the squid in a pan of hot oil.

Serve straightaway with lemon segments, otherwise the cooked squid will go rubbery or the batter will go soft.

Delicious.