We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Time to go back and visit Wagamama

The last place we went out to eat before the lockdown in March 2020 was Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway.

We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

Though we have eaten out since that visit, wanting to go out and eat for Father’s Day my children decided that we would go to Wagamama. The fact that we couldn’t book a table didn’t seem to deter them…

We drove up to the Mall, and like on our recent visit a few days earlier the M5 was rather busy.

However we did mange to get their okay. We had decided to eat at 2pm, so we could miss the lunchtime rush. Despite that when we got into the Mall there was quite a long queue for Wagamama. Though I prefer not to queue, this time I knew there were very few alternatives around and my children had their heart set on going there, so we decided to wait. The queue actually moved quite fast and we took the time while we were waiting to peruse the menu.

I was really torn about what I was going to have. I did think about having the cod mokutan soba which I had back in 2019 and despite the initial dish being burnt the returned dish was much better. Interestingly back then I said

It was the kind of dish I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have it again on another visit.

I did quite like the idea of having it again this time, shows what do I know about what I like!

Another dish which caught my eye was the grilled duck donburi. 

tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee

Or the teriyaki sirloin steak soba.

grilled sirloin steak with soba noodles cooked in curry oil with mangetout, bok choi, red and spring onions, chilli and beansprouts in a teriyaki sauce. garnished with coriander and sesame seeds

In the end after much consideration and flip flopping I went with the  shirodashi ramen

slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

The rest of the family went with their choices, yaki soba, chicken raisukaree, gluten free chicken ramen and chicken and rice noodles.

As is typical at Wagamama for me, everyone else’s dish arrived well before mine, and I was waiting for while for my food. The others trying to be polite wanted to wait, but I didn’t want their food to go cold. Anyhow I can eat quite fast, so was okay with them eating.

This serving as food as soon as it is ready, does mean that you get your food fresh, reality is that unless you don’t mind eating your dish whilst others have none, it strikes me more as lazy planning than “serving food as soon as it’s ready”.

Finally my food arrived and though not quite as good as the pictures on the website it did look nice.

shirodashi ramen  slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

I had anticipated the slow cooked pork belly to be tender and soft, but actually was crispy, which I wasn’t expecting.

I did enjoy the ramen and it was very tasty and delicious.

I did think about having a beer with my ramen, but in the end went with a  jasmine flowering tea – flowering lily and jasmine green tea.

asmine flowering tea - flowering lily and jasmine green tea

It looked great and tasted nice, it reminded me of the flowering tea I had at Tea Monkey in Bath back in 2012.

I wasn’t going to have desert, but was persuaded to by everyone at the table, and it was Father’s Day. Though I did think about cheesecake, I went with the smoked chocolate caramel cake.

For some reason I wasn’t expecting to get a slice of cake! But I did, the cake was layers of smoked chocolate mousse, salted caramel crushed biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

smoked chocolate caramel cake

Not as rich as it sounds and the ice cream added freshness and balance.

Overall we all enjoyed the meal, and the service was excellent.

Nice to be back.

We waited a day…

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, restaurants from the 12th April were allowed to open for outside eating only. To be honest I wasn’t that excited about this, however with my birthday on the 13th we made the decision to go out to eat to celebrate. Last year on my birthday we were in the full lockdown and there was very little we could go and do, so had a lovely celebration at home and we had a fish supper with stir fry. So this year we were thinking could we do something different and could we go out to eat. 

We booked a table at Zizzi at Cabot Circus in Bristol. This is “outside” but is in many ways under some kind of cover as well. So if it did rain, it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on the experience. We did wrap up warm though.

We had a warm if slightly confused welcome from the manager and we were shown to our table.

The paper disposable menus provided a wide choice, but I did quite fancy pizza so I went with the Rustica Primavera which has goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes & super green pesto.

It looked great when it arrived.

Rustica Primavera

I really liked the freshness of the spinach, rocket and fresh pesto on the pizza. Though I like goat’s cheese, I actually think that I might prefer this pizza without it. The dough base was nice, and as it was stretched some areas were thin and cripsy, whilst other parts of the pizza were thick and doughy. I liked the olives and artichokes along with the tomatoes and peppers.

I have had this pizza before, and enjoyed it back then too.

Overall a very tasty pizza.

Woodland style pizza

Now as we start to leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal. 

Back in May 2019 we went out for pizza at Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway. I had the Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella

I did enjoy this pizza and it was very woodland like in appearance and taste. It had a woodland or forest feel to it. I really enjoyed the mushrooms, which had very much a roasted flavour, rather than the insipid soggy texture and flavour you can usually find on some pizzas. The crumbled sausage added texture, saltiness as well as a meaty flavour to the pizza. I liked the fact that this was a ‘white pizza’ so no tomato. I do quite enjoy these kinds of pizza, however one day I will try and make my own ‘white pizza’.

I think this was the first time I had this pizza and enjoyed it so much that on return visits to Bella Italia I ordered it again in July at Cribbs Causeway and also ordered it when I was at a branch at Bella Italia in Leeds, which wasn’t as good as the versions I had earlier.

On my most most recent visit to Bella Italia which was way back in February 2020, just before lockdown, I actually went with a Calzone pizza. I don’t recall if the Funghi Luganica was on the menu or not, having checked the current menu it’s no longer there.

Old Frankie & Benny’s site to become a Burger King Drive-Thru

Now that the Frankie and Benny restaurant has closed on Flowerdown Retail Park. It would appear that the site will become a  Burger King with a drive-thru. Planning applications posted to the council show how the site will be converted into a drive-thru and local businesses have been consulted on the change.

I am not a great fan of fast food burger joints, so I think the chances of ever eating out there is very slim. If I am going out to eat I like the whole dining experience, queuing for a brown paper bag full of fast food, is not really my thing.

Combine this news with the new KFC opening up at the old Homebase in Queensway, Worle, the closure of Prezzo and Pizza Express, the eating out scene in Weston is slowly turning into one of fast food and drive-thru eating.

With all the exciting stuff that happens in Bristol on the food scene, it’s a pity that Weston is going down this fast food road.

That Wahaca Time in Clifton

Now as we start to leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal. 

I had forgotten that I had eaten at Wahaca in Bristol in 2017. I had got a money off voucher from a meal kit that I had bought in a supermarket, so though I wouldn’t normally spend the kind of money that this lunch would cost, with the money off voucher  it made it a lot cheaper and value for money.

This was my first (and to date) only visit to the Wahaca branch in Clifton, Bristol. I have eaten at a fair few branches in London over the years, but  I have only visited the branch in Clifton just this once.

I had a warm and friendly welcome and was shown to a table. It was later in the day for lunch so the place was quite empty.

I went with three dishes. The first of these was the Grilled Steak Tacos.

These are three flash-grilled skirt steak filled toasted soft corn tortilla tacos with chipotle & tomatillo salsas. You could have had it with grilled cheese, but I chose to go without. When I last visited Wahaca in London last year the cheese wasn’t optional, I don’t think it needs the cheese. The tacos were delicious, the steak was cooked well and the different salsas added heat and spice.

The second of my dishes as the Ancho Chicken Baja Tacos.

Two corn and flour tortillas inspired by the beaches of baja filled with grilled chicken thighs marinated with sweet & smoky ancho chilli, topped with  and jalapeño-pickled carrots. I really enjoyed these the salad adding freshness to the dish, with the warm tasty grilled chicken.

As for my third dish was a special, the Mushroom Fundido.

Mushrooms roasted in garlic, thyme, chipotle and hibiscus glazed, baked in mozzarella, cheddar and local queso fresco.

When writing this article I checked what the dish was called from my Instagram feed when I posted a photo of it back in March 2017.

I then did a Google Search for more details about the dish and this tweet from Wahaca came up.

As you can see what I got looked very different to how the dish should have looked. Having said that, the dish tasted a lot better than it looked.

Overall three tasty dishes, excellent service.

Prezzo to close in Weston-super-Mare

According to an article in the Evening Standard Prezzo in Weston-super-Mare is to close. Obviously it is closed now due to Covid restrictions, but is now not going to reopen.

Prezzo in WSM is part of the Dolphin Square development, we’ve already seen Pizza Express next door, shut. Loco Mexicana has moved from their unit to a new one on the seafront. T-Bone and Luda have also closed. That leaves just Costa at the back and Nandos on the corner still “open”. The Cineworld has closed due to Covid, as had clip and climb. Going forward what does this mean for the entire complex? 

Causal dining chains in Weston have taken a hit across the town, as Frankie and Benny’s over at Flowerdown has also shut.

An opportunity in the future for independent restaurants perhaps? Or will people travel into Bristol or up to Cribbs Causeway when they want to go out to eat in the future?

Quick lunch in Cardiff

Last November I was attending some meetings in Cardiff, after they were over I was walking back to the car park to get my car and drive home. I realised I was hungry and decided to get something to eat.

Cardiff has quite a bit of choice of places to eat, but I didn’t really have the time to look round find somewhere so in the end I chose Barburrito.

I’ve had Barburrito tacos before at Paddington and Bristol Airport, so it was something I knew I liked.

I had three Barburrito tacos with pork and chicken. You also get a handful of tortilla chips and salsa. I like how you have some choice over which salads and extras you get with your tacos.

Though I always think with Barburrito that the meat is generally overcooked, however I did enjoy my tacos and the salad and toppings tasted very fresh.

French Excellence in Edinburgh

Last November I was off to Scotland, staying overnight in Edinburgh, for some meetings and events. I took an afternoon flight from Bristol. I took the tram to the heart of Edinburgh and then walked over to the hotel the Radisson Blu. The room was nice and modern. After dropping off my stuff I went for a walk around Edinburgh.

I realised as I walked around Edinburgh having checked into my hotel, that I have been to Edinburgh many times over the last twenty years for work, but have never actually visited the place in a personal non-work capacity. I go to London a lot for work, but also go there with family to visit and explore. So I am thinking about possibly visiting Edinburgh in the future to explore and have a proper look around.

It was getting dark even though it was only 4pm, well it was November. I walked around the old town before heading up to the castle.

It was way too late to visit the castle proper so I just took in the evening views across Edinburgh.

There was a couple of shops I wanted to have a look at before I went back to the hotel so walked further into the heart of Edinburgh with the intention of walking around Princes Street and back to the hotel. On my way I passed what looked like a really nice French place, Petit Paris on Grassmarket. The menu looking really interesting and inspiring. They had a pre-theatre deal that looked good value. It was not as though I was going to go to the theatre, but  could take advantage of the deal.

As it was afternoon, I continued to explore Edinburgh, however as I walked around the weather got worse, so I stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and catch up with work stuff. I went back to the hotel more directly to get changed and then I headed out to get something to eat.

I went out to Petit Paris for dinner. The place was quite busy and I was given a nice welcome, before being taken down into the basement where there was a free table.

I looked over the menu and there was so many tempting dishes on there. I had to make a choice though, so for my starter I went with the garlic mussels.

This dish reminded me of snails in garlic butter, but this dish was done with mussels. It had just come out of the oven was really hot, so I was careful not to scald my mouth when eating it. Very strong garlic flavours, slightly overpowering the mussels, but still a nice start to the meal.

There was a lot of choice for the main course, in the end I went with something that I probably wouldn’t have ordered, but did so as I wanted to try a new kind of dish. I went with fish in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes.

It was delicious and very nice. The potato was smooth and creamy, the sauce was tasty and not too rich and the fish was cooked really well.

I didn’t want a sweet end to the meal and I like cheese so I went with some cheese.

There was a nice choice of cheeses.

Overall this was one of the best meals out I have had for a long time, the food was delicious.

If I get a chance to get to Edinburgh again I think I will try and visit Petit Paris again for a meal.

Pizza at The Old Leadworks

Having spent the afternoon in Bristol last November, we had  choice, did we go home and cook, or did we go out and eat first in Bristol. We did venture first to Bella Italia, but it was fully booked. To be honest I wasn’t sure if it was as there was plenty of free tables. However I wasn’t willing to argue with the staff. We didn’t want to spend ages walking around to find somewhere to eat. The challenge was that we needed to find somewhere which had a good choice of gluten free items as well.

I recalled that over by at-Bristol or now as it was called We The Curious in the old Leadworks was a branch of Prezzo. So we decided that we would try there, if unsuccessful we would go home. So we headed towards Prezzo on the Harbourside.

Back in 2000 I actually worked at at-Bristol and my desk was in the offices on the first floor in the old Leadworks. At that time the restaurant was a Firehouse Rotisserie, which sold chicken. I did think about going there a few times, but never did. It was too expensive for lunch and it was somewhere we ever went in the evening either. I am not sure when it became a Prezzo, but it was now a Prezzo.

We were given a lovely warm friendly welcome. I looked over the menu, and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted. In the end I went with the Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and egg.

I have had this pizza a few times before and enjoyed it each time. This time it was just as nice.

There was a lot of pizza but I did manage to finish it.

It was a lovely relaxing meal and we all really enjoyed our food.