Taking the family to lunch at Bottelino’s in Weston super Mare.
Having had pizza a fair few times recently, I decided to go with pasta and chose the Orecchiette al Pollo. This is orecchiette pasta with chicken, mushroom, garlic, chilli in a cream sauce.
This was a really nice dish, the pasta was perfectly cooked, the sauce was tasty, and had a nice hidden bite with the chilli. There was for me, just the right amounts of chicken and mushrooms. The amounts of the garlic and chilli in the dish were just right.
The pizza’s the children had were really nice, not huge, but big enough for growing appetites, nice amount of cheese and ham, as well as a great pizza base.
So why is the blog post called “That’s outrageous!” then?
The children’s menu is good value at £4.95 for a main course, a drink and ice cream. Though the children’s drinks were quite small, teacup sized, so we ordered refills. When the bill came I was shocked to find that we were charged £2.25 for each drink. Checking the menu, this is the same price as the adult apple juice, and I suspect that if I had ordered an apple juice it wouldn’t have come in a small coloured beaker. Sorry, this is outrageous pricing, and has really put me off going again.
Remind me please that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta!
You know for am American Italian Diner I am disappointed how they serve pasta, which in my opinion should be a signature dish for them. Similarly how difficult is it to get pasta wrong?
I should have remembered when I ordered the Philly Steak Bake which was not the best pasta dish I had eaten. I should have known better, you would think? The thing is back then my son had ordered the Spaghetti Oceana which looked great and according to my son was delicious.
So this time I ordered Chicken Penne Romana, which was penne pasta with chicken breast, spicy pepperoni and pancetta bacon tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce. It came with the choice of fries or salad. Now why on earth did is come with fries, okay partly my fault I should have chosen the salad option! It is a very British thing I believe that to have potatoes and pasta together, you know lasagne and chips for example.
Next time, choose the salad, next time… well next time I won’t choose the pasta so it won’t be a problem.
So what about the pasta? Let’s be straight, it certainly wasn’t an awful dish, so bad I couldn’t eat it. No it was certainly edible and I did finish the dish. The thing is, it could have been so much better. The so called rich tomato sauce, was anything but rich, and lacked flavour and richness. It was too bland and it was this that really marked down the quality of the dish. When you read the description “tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce” you kind of expect that to be the case, the reality was that didn’t happen, the pasta was in the bowl and the sauce poured on top. If you wanted it tossed you were going to have to do that yourself.
It was a pity that the dish turned out the way it did, as the concept sounded really good.
I’ve not been to Strada before and was looking forward to eating there. It’s interesting how many Italian style chains there are around, from the American inspired Frankie and Benny’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo. Strada is owned by the same company which owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge. We went to the Strada branch in York with is on Low Petergate in a lovely old building. When we entered we were greeted in a friendly manner and offered a table by the window, the place didn’t look too busy.
Inside there was a modern Italian feel to the decor and furniture and it certainly did not feel as intimidating or posh as Prezzo. However I did feel from a service perspective that Prezzo was more family friendly than Strada. This wasn’t what I would have expected by looking at the websites and online menus, my impression, having not been to either Strada or Prezzo before, was that Strada was for families and Prezzo was for couples. Our experience of the two York branches was the other way round. Though having said that, crayons and activity sheets did arrive at the table as we perused the menus.
We placed our order when our drinks arrived, which was pretty prompt, though after that the service went a little downhill.
The children’s starters arrived and they got the order wrong. Now that does happen now and again, but when you realise that the children’s menu only has two choices and we had only ordered two starters (one of each) I wasn’t impressed that they messed up that part of the order. It did make me worry whether they would get the rest of the order right!
We then waited ages for our food…
No explanation from the staff who were notably absent. What was apparent later (when visiting the bathroom) was that there was a group in the back of the restaurant and this had a very negative impact on the service to other diners in the restaurant. It wasn’t a huge group, but it had a noticeable impact on service.
Could they have not got in some more staff if they knew they were having this group in? I also wonder if they like Prezzo did not realise that though it wasn’t school holidays in York, it was in other areas of the country and thought it would be quieter than normal? Who knows.
Eventually our food arrived.
I had decided to go for something very different to what I would normally order in a place like Strada and went for the Tegamaccio at £14.50. This is a “classic” seafood stew from Puglia. With king prawns, mussels, clams, squid and red mullet with fregola pasta in a tomato, white wine and herb sauce.
It did look very nice, and the sauce was tasty. I was disappointed with the amount of fish in the dish, yes there were plenty of prawns and a fair few mussels filled the dish, however there was only a single small piece of red mullet and just a few squid rings. The dish was served with some toasted bread and in the bottom of the dish was fregola pasta, which is similar to the large Israeli cous cous. Personally I think the dish needed more fish and more pasta. Normally I am not one of those people who demands huge portions, but in this instance the issue wasn’t one of quantity, but one of proportions.
My son decided that he would go with the simple, Spaghetti Pomodoro at £7.75. Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, drizzled with pesto and topped with fresh basil.
It looked great and he said it was delicious and finished the dish off.
My wife chose the Penne Bufala at £8.50, the description said roasted peppers, courgettes and aubergine in a tomato and basil sauce with black olives and buffalo mozzarella.
My wife was disappointed that the dish was missing the mozzarella, now at the time I thought that wasn’t a mistake and we has misunderstood the name of the dish. Now with writing this blog post, I checked the menus for descriptions and as you have read above the dish was suppose to come with mozzarella. Having said that I think the reason my wife didn’t complain at the time was that by the time our main courses had arrived the staff then disappeared. When they did appear to wait on other people’s tables they ignored us.
The marghertia pizzas didn’t go down well with the two little ones, they said they “didn’t like it” but I think the reason was that the pizza bases were paper thin. I do like thin and crispy pizza bases, but in this instance these were too thin, they felt even thinner than wraps! As a result the pizza felt as you ate it that you were eating cardboard covered in tomato paste. A real disappointment, if we had known, we would have ordered the spaghetti bolognese.
Having finished our food, it then took ages to get the attention of the waiting staff so that we could pay the bill. In the end the only way we could get their attention was to get our coats on and start walking towards the exit! That is not good service, and though the food was okay, what really let the place down was the poor service.
I’ve not been to Prezzo before, there isn’t one close by that I had seen, though I have since found one in Bristol, they occupy the old leadworks where the Firehouse Rotisserie was. However on a recent visit to York, we decided to have lunch there.
It did feel a little “posh” when we went in, and as a family I wasn’t sure we had made the right choice. The ambience, the decor and look of the place was very much a sophisticated place than a family run Italian restaurant. I shouldn’t have worried as the waiting staff immediately made us feel at ease, guided us to a table with a great view outside and provided colouring pencils and stuff to do for the children. Though my first impression was of a place not suitable for a family, they certainly provided a service that welcomed families.
Looking over the menu, the smallest in our family chose pizza, whilst the second youngest chose spaghetti bolognese.
My wife went with the Bianca Pizza for £9.95, I chose the Lobster and Crab Tortelli at £11.95. My eldest son was a little hesitant, at ten years old he often finds the children’s menu a little too young. I don’t think he’s forgiven us when we ordered a children’s meal for him recently and it came on a teddy bear plate! Having said that though, he still enjoy’s a kids lunchbox. In the end after lookng over the menu, he went with the Fusilli with Italian Sausage at £9.25. This is described as being made with red onion, garlic, fresh rocket and fresh chilli in a spicy tomato sauce.
The waiting staff were certainly taken aback when we placed our order and did say that the Fusilli pasta dish was quite spicy. However my son was happy with that and he does enjoy spicy food.
As we waited for our food and looked out the window we realised that this wasn’t an ideal location for a restaurant on the corner of a reasonably busy junction.
However what with fire engines and lots of buses passing by, the children loved it, and spent most of the waiting time looking out of the window. They didn’t have to wait long though, as the food arrived promptly and looked great.
I had ordered the Lobster and Crab Tortelli which came with baby spinach and red chilli in a creamy saffron sauce. I have decided that this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. This was certainly something very different, as I can’t recall ever ordering a filled pasta like this before.
This wasn’t an excessively large portion, but certainly wasn’t tiny either. For me it was about right. The pasta was cooked to perfection, not too soft with still some bite. I did feel that the filling lacked a little in flavour, however the sauce, which I felt might have been overpowering, was not in the least and complemented the pasta well. I did enjoy the addition of the baby spinach and thought the dish was delicious and very nice to eat. It was a great sized portion for lunch, but if you had a bigger appetite you might have wanted to add a salad, or had a starter.
My wife had gone for the Bianca Pizza which had on it goat’s cheese, grilled courgettes, baby sunblushed tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato. She had taken the light option (which increased the price) that takes half the dough of the Classic pizza and the pizza is then served with a mixed salad with a low calorie Italian dressing. It looked really nice and she said it was just right.
So what of the spicy Fusilli with Italian Sausage that my son had gone for? Well it was certainly hot and spicy, but it was scrummy and he finished the entire dish. I was expecting to see slices of sausage in the dish, but it was cooked with “lumps” of sausage, almost like a bolognese consistency. It looked great and I was allowed a quick taste. It certainly was spicy, but not too spicy to be unpleasant as can sometimes happen.
The children’s meals looked great, the pizza was enjoyed as was the spaghetti bolognese. The spaghetti bolognese was a proper bolognese and again I had a quick taste and it was really really nice. It was probably something I would order if I went to Prezzo again.
So why the “well nearly” in the blog post title?
Well alas the service let us down. It started off so well to begin with. They were welcoming and friendly and our food did arrive quite promptly. However after that it all went a little downhill. I am not sure why, but I think the main reason was that there wasn’t enough staff on. It was a Tuesday lunchtime and I think they anticipated that as it wasn’t a school holiday (schools in York broke up a week later than many parts of the country) they wouldn’t have too many customers. However though when we arrived there was only a few tables occupied, by the time we had finished eating our main courses the place was full and they were turning people away. As a result the two waiting staff appeared to be rushed off their feet. For us that meant it took a while to sort out the desert (just ice cream) and get the bill. The staff though did keep smiling.
So apart from the service issues towards the end of the meal, the food was delicious, it looked great and appeared to be made fresh to order. Really nicely done and now I have found where the Bristol branch is, we might go again.
Sometimes when going out to eat I think about what I would like to eat, of course you then make a choice, but when the food eventually arrives, you think, I wish I had ordered that.
Of course it doesn’t always work that way, usually I am happy with what I have ordered, and sometimes I am really glad I ordered what I did, but now and again you wish you could have chosen differently.
I had a recent experience of that at Frankie and Benny’s where I had ordered the Philly Steak Bake.
My son had gone with the Spaghetti Oceana (£9.25). Spaghetti tossed in our Neapolitan tomato sauce with large prawns, clams and garlic. Served with a fresh rocket, tomato and red onion salad sprinkled with Grana Padano and half a char-grilled lemon on the side for added flavour.
This looked fantastic and according to my son tasted great.
My wife went with the Californian Pizza (£9.75). Creamy goat’s cheese, slices of fresh tomato, mixed peppers, sautéed mushrooms and red onion, with melted mozzarella on our tomato and nut pesto base.
It looked really nice and she said it was delicious and she finished it off, and there was me hoping that I might get a slice at the end.
This was one of those meals where I wished I had what someone else ordered.
Having had quite a good experience with our last visit to Frankie and Benny’s we decided wanting to eat out again to visit once more.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to eat, and at first was going to go with something I had before. Then I remembered that I had decided that this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out.
I usually avoid pasta dishes when eating out, mainly as I find that most places overcook the pasta. However as I was willing to try something new, and didn’t really want pizza, I went with a pasta dish, the Philly Steak Bake at £10.95. This is described as strips of tender steak, red onion, peppers and Philly cheese sauce, oven baked with penne pasta and topped with cheddar cheese.
Probably the best way to describe this dish is to ask if I would order it again.
So would I order it again?
No I wouldn’t!
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t an awful dish, but it certainly was not an outstanding dish. I enjoyed the steak, the cheese sauce was a little too processed for me, however as had anticipated the pasta was overcooked! Maybe it’s just me, I like my pasta al dente, with some bite, this was very soft.
I do find it interesting how different branches of the same chain can, despite similar decor and identical menus, be such different dining experiences.
Bella Italia is one such beast, where I’ve had such diverse experiences at different branches. We usually go to Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway and have had many lovely meals there. A recent experience at the branch at Cabot Circus was not as good. I should be clear that it wasn’t a horrible experience, just not as good I expected based on my experiences at the Cribbs branch.
So what was so different?
Well the first thing was the quality of the service, it was just okay, but I we didn’t feel the warmth of the welcome we’ve had elsewhere. I think part of the issue was that the place was really busy and the staff were pretty much rushed off their feet. That was another aspect that I felt was markedly different, was the atmosphere, the place was pretty much full and as a result felt very rushed and busy. However it doesn’t always have to be that way, eating at the Coal Grill and Bar the other day, which was in many ways just as busy, it didn’t feel busy and we didn’t feel rushed. The staff appeared to be calm and smiling, making us feel welcome, all of which added to a much better dining experience.
After observing an argument in the open kitchen between the head chef and I assume the branch manager in full view of the eating customers, I did wonder whether there was a staffing issue that wasn’t been resolved?
As you might expect with a full restaurant it took a little while for the food to appear, but I was disappointed that my son’s meal was delayed so he had to wait. True it was only about five minutes, but still… The reason it was delayed, and as I could see the kitchen and the service counter, was that his plate of food was served up with ours, but one of the waiting staff took it away and delivered it to another table. As a result the chef had to cook a fresh dish.
What about the food?
Well the Quattro Stagoni Pizza we shared was very nice, good quality pizza base, nice sauce, not too much cheese and generous toppings, well not too little and not too much, just right.
My two eldest children enjoyed their pasta dishes, though my youngest was disappointed with her pizza. She had ordered from the child’s menu, so we knew it wouldn’t be a huge pizza. However when it arrived it was really quite small, 7” probably in diameter. Having had the same menu item at Cribbs, this was very different, they had much larger children’s pizza. Ah well, different branch, maybe a new menu, cutting costs and all that.
We were asked if everything was okay, and at that time it was, so we said yes. What changed was the family at the table next to us some time later, received their children’s pizzas and they were at least 11” in diameter! We checked with the family, and yes they had ordered children’s pizza.
When we did get the bill, we did query this, and I have to give Bella Italia their credit that they did agree with us that this wasn’t right, as a result they reduced the bill and gave us a 1/3 off voucher for a future visit. I still though question the kitchen management and portion control that resulted in us receiving a pizza which was too small (and as it happens with the other family receiving pizzas which were too big).
Overall it wasn’t a bad experience, but on reflection I don’t think we will go again to that branch, I do expect that we will probably go to the Cribbs branch though.
Celebrating a birthday we went to Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway for lunch. We did look at the menu at Frankie and Benny’s, but after our last experience there, we decided that actually it might be better to go somewhere else.
Entering the restaurant we were guided to our table, the place seemed very empty. However due to the design and layout of the restaurant, though noticeable there weren’t too many people in there, it didn’t feel empty and lonely, as some places can.
Looking over the menu, I did consider going with the cheaper fixed price lunchtime offering, but in the end I went with a pasta dish from the main menu. I chose the Agnello Tagliatelle, slow cooked lamb and red wine ragu with fresh egg tagliatelle and Parmesan shavings, from the Abruzzo region of Italy.
It looked great and was very tasty. The lamb and ragu had strong flavours that weren’t overpowering. The pasta was not overcooked and had texture. Certainly not the best fresh pasta I’ve had, but very good. My only real criticism was that the Parmesan shavings were a little too thick for my liking.
Service was initially very fast, but slowed down to a crawl by the time we asked for the bill! Overall a really nice dish and at £9.95 was very reasonable.
It’s surprising how many different pasta shapes there are and how different they can “taste”. Some shapes work better with thick sauces, others with thinner style sauces.
Trofie pasta is quite a weird style for pasta, but I do enjoy eating it, and find it goes well with pesto.
This was a fresh Trofie pasta, a Pizza Express brand that only takes a few minutes to cook. I have bought dried Trofie before, but have been pleased with the Pizza Express fresh Trofie pasta.
I used a jar of pesto and added some toasted pine nuts. To toast pine nuts I use a heavy frying pan, add NO oil and heat on the hob. I then add the pine nuts until they are toasted, not too brown and be careful you don’t burn them.
I find pine nuts quite expensive, usually paying £2.50 for a small bag, but I really do like them in pasta with pesto. They also work well in salads.
Overall a quick and easy, but very tasty pasta dish.