Time for a Calzone Verdure

Celebrating a birthday we headed for Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway. We had booked in advance, which was a good thing, as the place was busy, buzzing and full of people. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we had to wear masks in the restaurant when we weren’t sitting at the table.

Virtually all the Pizza Express restaurants have their own character, this is certainly the case with the Cribbs Causeway branch. It has a Banksy feel with stencil graffiti on the walls in a Banksy style.

We had a nice warm welcome and were shown to our table. Though we could have looked at the menu online on our phones, we did ask for physical menus.

I ordered a Peroni Libera, Peroni’s non-alcoholic lager, as I was wanting something that wasn’t a soft drink, but as I was driving I didn’t want alcohol. I don’t mind non-alcoholic lagers, however I wasn’t a fan of this one. There was something that wasn’t quite right, and compared to other non-alcoholic lagers I have had it wasn’t as tasty.

For my starter I chose the calamari. These were breaded squid rings served with a Caesar dressing, lemon and parsley. I think I should have remembered my experience from last year. 

I thought it was okay, but I was a little disappointed. 

It was a similar experience this time.

Again I thought it was just okay, but I was a also a little disappointed. The squid was tender, the coating crunchy, but I am not sure it was what I wanted from a dish of calamari. The thing was looking at the other starters there wasn’t much I liked from the menu, so defaulting to the squid.

For my main course I was tempted by the Fiorentina pizza I have had before, but thinking I always have that, lets try something different I did like the sound of the Calzone Verdure. The menu describes this as roasted peppers and aubergine with spinach, smoky tomato harissa, hot chilli, tomato with garlic and topped with rosemary and served with salad and balsamic dressing.

So I decided to go with that.

I really quite liked the calzone. The dough was delicious and tasty. The filling was a lot spicer than I was anticipating, but I think that’s because I didn’t read the description properly and missed the mention of hot chilli. So probably a little too spicy for me, but the filling was very tasty and full of flavour.

What I didn’t realise was that this was a vegan dish, well not that was an issue, this was a very tasty calzone pizza and I really enjoyed it.

Birds Eye Green Cuisine meat-free meatballs

We tried these today. Birds Eye Green Cuisine meat-free meatballs.

Our Meat-free meatballs are super tasty combined with a home-made tomato sauce and served with pasta. They’re loaded with our signature pea protein* combined with a unique mix of herbs and spices to create a delicious meat-free alternative.

We had them plain. Trying to recreate that IKEA type meal of meatballs.

I wasn’t too impressed with them. They were easy to cook, but I was expecting a stronger flavour.

I think they would work well in a tomato sauce on top of pasta.

Truffled Cauliflower Cheese

I quite like cauliflower cheese and I have been enjoying eating this dish from Marks and Spencer’s with some recent Sunday lunches.

It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb.

There is plenty of caulifower and just the right amount of sauce. I liked the addition of the truffle and though I did think it needed more topping this was a personal preference, and I did enjoy the topping which browned nicely in the oven..

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

February Funghi Calzone

I never really know if I like a calzone or not. So back in February after a game of bowling we headed off to Bella Italia for a meal. This was pre-lockdown and they had their full menu available.

I looked over the menu and decided that I would try a calzone. I went with the Funghi Calzone.

This was described as a traditional Neapolitan folded pizza filled with chestnut mushrooms, leeks, mozzarella cheese in a mascarpone and porcini sauce.

As with most times I’ve had a calzone, what arrives at the table looks like a large Cornish pasty!

I did quite enjoy the pizza, you could taste the mushroom in the dish and I finished it all. 

Where’s my spinach?

As I was going through some photographs I realised that this meal I had last September wasn’t on the blog. I was up in Leeds  and staying at the Woodlands Hotel. This was a really nice hotel outside Leeds, so plenty of parking, and it was cheaper than a city centre Premier Inn.

I decided to go out to eat. I planned to go to Morley which had an interesting choice of restaurants, however the road there was closed due to an accident. So in the end I went to the Centre 27 Business Park and as I had a voucher, I went to Bella Italia.

I had a warm welcome and though the place was busy I was shown to a table and I looked over the menu. I ordered the Funghi Arrosto  mushroom starter, which was described in the menu as chestnut mushrooms oven-baked with wilted baby spinach leaves in a mascarpone and porcini sauce. Served with toasted ciabatta. It sounded rather nice. However when it arrived didn’t have any spinach.

Funghi Arrosto

When I complained initially I was told the spinach was mixed into the sauce. Knowing that wasn’t the case, the menu had said wilted baby spinach I had to go to the Bella Italia website and find the picture of the dish with the description.

Funghi Arrosto

I complained again, showed the picture and compared it to what I had received, and this time I was taken seriously. The dish was replaced.

This time it looked more like the menu picture, so much better, though I think the ciabatta could have been toasted more, but I was a little tired of complaining and I was hungry. I really shouldn’t have had to complain twice, I shouldn’t have even needed to complain once!

For my mains I had a mushroom pizza, can you tell I was in the mood for mushrooms. I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well, though it was a little overdone to my taste. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

I decided not to have a desert.

I did later complain and got a £20 voucher to spend on a future visit to Bella Italia.

That branch of Bella Italia has now permanently closed.

Time for Lasagne

I was in Prezzo for lunch and I was thinking about pizza, but I felt  I had pizza quite a lot recently, so I started looking over the pasta on the menu. I did think about the carbonara, but in the end chose the lasagne.

It arrived in a very hot dish and looked good.

Lasagne

It tasted okay, if I was going to say anything about it, it was a little bland compared to what I thought it would taste like. I think the Bolognese lacked depth of flavour. However I did enjoy it. Will I have it again? Probably not.

Time for Reds

There was a time when I would travel for work, stay overnight and then go out and get something to eat.

Well I am not doing that now and don’t expect to be doing it for a while either. I have though still a few places to write about and review that I didn’t do so at the time. This is one such review.

Back in January when I could and did travel I was staying overnight in Leeds. I needed a place to eat. I rarely eat at the restaurants in the hotels, usually either they are very expensive and out of budget, or as was the case in Leeds, the hotel I was staying didn’t really have a proper restaurant, serving a few bar snack type meals only. The other thing I do find with hotel restaurants is that it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of the food.

Around the corner from the hotel there was quite a choice of restaurants, this is so much easier these days with Google or Apple Maps which show the restaurant close to you.

I was checking the menus of a few nearby places, when I saw on their website, that Reds True Barbecue in Headingley had a 51% discount offer in January, if you pre-booked. So I decided I would go there to eat, the menu looked great as well. It was simple to book online and I walked down to the restaurant.

The outside looked very American to me, though I’ve never been to America and have thus never eaten at a proper American barbecue joint, and so have no frame of reference to what a real barbecue place is like. However if I was to say what I thought an American barbecue joint was like based on the films and TV programme I felt it looked like what I thought an American barbecue joint should look like.

Reds True Barbecue in Headingly in Leeds

Having walked through the door I was given a warm and friendly welcome. The place was crowded, considering it was a Tuesday night. Being in Headingley the clientele were quite young and I am guessing a fair few were students. Probably taking advantage of the 51% offer. I liked the look of the place, slightly industrial, wooden tables and American signs.

Though I had seen the menu online, I still took my time to have a good look over the menu choices. There were a range of starters, barbecue platters and to quote the menu, “things in bread” which had a range of burgers.

Having travelled up to Leeds during the day and missing lunch, I was quite hungry. I went with the barbecued three meats with two sides deal.

barbecued three meats with two sides

I chose the smoked brisket, the short rib and the sausage. For my sides I went with fries and onion rings. Though I was tempted by the chicken wings and the pork belly. To drink with the meal I ordered a bottle of Corona.

The food arrived pretty quickly and I was impressed with the look of the food and the portion size.

The sausages were really nice, meaty and spicy. The short rib was delicious and very tender. The brisket was nice, but I felt it was a little dry. I enjoyed both the sides, though I think on reflection I probably should have had some slaw alongside.

My meal should have cost £25, but with the 51% discount on food, in the end it was just £14.54 which was really good value.

Though I don’t expect to be going to Leeds anytime soon, I hope that I can because I think I would like to have a return visit to Reds for some more excellent barbecued food.

222

I was actually going to have a flat white at Caffe Nero in Cheltenham, but it was way too busy.

Near enough next door is 222 and it looked rather nice inside.

There are wooden floors, wood on the walls and comfortable seating.

We went upstairs and due to social distancing measure it wasn’t as cosy as I thought it could be, but still a nice environment, with more wood and industrial lighting.

A warm friendly welcome and I ordered my Flat White.  This was served promptly.

The coffee was great, good tasting coffee with the right feel and texture of a flat white.

I don’t go to Cheltenham very often, even less now with lockdown restrictions, so I think it might be sometime before I get back to have another coffee at 222.

Time to visit the Green Coffee Machine again

Green Coffee Machine

The last visit to the Green Coffee Machine in Cheltenham was back in 2013 in my final month of working at Gloucestershire College. That previous visit was also my first visit to the Green Coffee Machine. I really enjoyed the coffee and toast I had back then.

Overall I did quite like the atmosphere, the service was excellent, the coffee was great, if you don’t mind a slighty confused design and decor and avoid the toast, then it’s a really nice place to spend time drinking coffee.

Having changed jobs and no longer working regularly in Cheltenham, I didn’t think I would ever have coffee at the Green Coffee Machine again.

So it was nice the other day when I was in Cheltenham and I had to kill time before my train, I went for a coffee at the Green Coffee Machine. I wasn’t sure if it was still going to be there, as it had been a fair few years and independent coffee shops don’t always survive. So it was nice to see that it was still open and serving coffee.

It was a slightly different experience to my last one, mainly as Covid-19 had changed how they operate and the layout of the place.

There was a warm and friendly welcome from the staff. I ordered my coffee, once it was made I sat at a table. The coffee was excellent and just what I needed. I was slightly disappointed that even though I was drinking in, it was served in a paper cup. Not sure if this was standard policy, or that it was only an hour until closing time. If I am drinking in, I would like a proper cup for my coffee please.

I think the decor has improved considerably as well, so was a pleasant place to drink coffee.

I don’t know if it will be back, but I certainly will  make the effort the next time I am in Cheltenham to have another coffee at the Green Coffee Machine.