The food could have been better

It has been a long time since I have eaten at Zizzi, but the last time I was there I enjoyed my pizza. So meeting up after work in Bristol we headed towards Zizzi to get something to eat.

It was more late afternoon than early evening do when we arrived there was quite a bit of space, when we left the place was full and there was a queue outside.

I don’t think I could quibble with the service, which was warm and friendly, however our food at Zizzi could have been so much better.

Checking the menu, I decided to start with the calamari before then having a Rustica Pinoli Pizza.

The calamari was nice, but they had run out of aioli and though I asked for some mayonnaise they came back with tomato ketchup (seriously) and a separate pepper sauce (which was nice), however neither of these really complemented the calamari in the way that the aioli would have.

We also had some gluten free garlic bread, which was nice and garlicy, however was slightly overdone. I was all ready to complain and ask for a replacement, but I was out voted!

My Rustica Pinoli Pizza had goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, baby slow roast tomatoes, pine nuts & riserva cheese.

I’ve had this before, and though I think it needed more pine nuts, it was rather nice. There is a nice mix of flavours, from the cheese to the caramelised balsamic onions which add to the pizza.

What was interesting was that the other Rustica Pinoli we had on the table was overcooked compared mine. I did offer to swap but this was turned down.

We did the Eat Out scheme so we got 50% off, which wasn’t a bad deal. However the lack of consistency of quality in the food, means I don’t know when I will be going back to Zizzi again.

Cooking squid

I have a very simple way of cooking squid, it does require some preparation time, but I find that the end result is tender tasty squid.

I take squid tubes and split them into a flat piece of squid, then I score the squid in a checked pattern on the inside of the squid. The key here is to cut into the squid, but not all the way through. With thicker pieces of squid this is easier than when the squid is quite thin. The technique I do, is let the knife do the work and not to press down with the knife. You really do need a sharp knife for this.

In a hot pan I add some olive oil and then quick flash fry the squid. What should happen is the squid should cook and roll.

This can then be seasoned and served, though I also use this method when adding squid to my paella dishes.

Remembering the squid and langoustine

Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market, image by 139904 from Pixabay

Back in January and staying overnight in London, and having had a really nice fish supper at Loch Fyne in Cambridge, I decided that I would take advantage of their January 50% off mains offer and have dinner at their Leadenhall Market site.

Leadenhall Market is an interesting place to visit, reminds me very much of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films. It has lots of painted and polished wood, beautiful windows and is covered with a glass roof. I think I remember reading once that this was the place that inspired J K Rowling when she was writing about Diagon Alley for the Harry Potter books.

I initially had a little trouble finding the branch of Loch Fyne, but after a little search I found it. It was a lot less crowded than the Cambridge branch and there was a lot of space to choose where to sit. I was given a warm welcome and shown to my table. Though the outside of the place has that quaint look of olden tymes that you get with Leadenhall Market the inside was quite fresh and modern.

Having looked at the menu online, I had decided that I would probably go with the turbot. I have seen it cooked on shows like Masterchef Professional and The Great British Menu, but have never bought it cooked it myself, neither have I eaten it at a restaurant either. So I was quite looking forward to it. You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that it was off the menu as they had run out!

In the end I decided I would got for a starter and ordered the sea salt and pepper squid.

Squid

The menu described this being served with sesame seeds and tomato & chilli jam. Of course once you have ordered the menu is removed so I couldn’t check until I got back to the hotel I was staying at to see that there was no jam, I had been served the dish with sliced chilli instead. It isn’t the same and would have ruined the dish if I had eaten that amount of chilli!

This dish was probably described as okay. The coating was crispy, but the squid was a little too chewy. Way too much chilli!

For my main course I chose the grilled scottish langoustines with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic and almonds.

This was on the Leadenhall menu, but wasn’t on the menu when I was at the Cambridge branch. I’ve always liked langoustine, even though this was a special, I think if the turbot had been on the menu, I would have still chosen the turbot.

I was intrigued how this would be served and this is how it looked, it was a large pile of grilled langoustine.

GRILLED SCOTTISH LANGOUSTINES (N) 29.95 with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic, almonds

I was quite surprised by the way if was presented. The langoustine had been halved, grilled and then the romesco sauce added on top.

The langoustine was not as tasty as I thought they would be, but I did enjoy the romesco sauce. If anything the langoustine were rather dry and they didn’t have a huge amount of flavour. Though quite a large dish, it wasn’t that filling, well once you eat the langoustine flesh there is still quite a bit of langoustine left. I think I should have ordered some sides, but at the time of ordering I wasn’t that hungry.

The service was excllent, warm and friendly. I enjoyed the meal and think with the 50% off offer it was value for money. I would like to go again, but in the current landscape that may be some time away.

Time for Birthday Paella

Spanish inspired rice dish

When asked what was wanted for a birthday meal, the response was a seafood paella. Okay this is not paella, but is a dish inspired by paella. I have had authentic paella in Spain and from street food stalls in Bristol. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

In a large paella pan add a splash of olive oil. The add some pancetta (or chopped chorizo), a diced red onion, a diced onion, diced red pepper and diced yellow pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some diced mushrooms and some sliced mushrooms.

Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock, I used a Knorr fish stock. I then added some tinned cannellini beans.

Spanish inspired rice dish

With hindsight I should have added the cannellini beans later in the cooking process as they got slightly overcooked and some fell apart.

I then gave everything a thorough stir. Then leave it to cook, don’t stir it again. As the stock reduces, add more stock to ensure that the rice cooks evenly.

I cooked the whole prawns on a griddle and did the same with the squid. I usually score the squid to make it look nice, but was out of time, so it went it as is. I also cooked some plain prawns and added them.

I usually cook the cooking chorizo separately as they seem to “leak” a lot of oil when cooking. I always try and using cooking chorizo rather than the dried ready to eat version you can buy. It’s softer and tastier I think in a dish like this.

I added the cooked fish, cooked chorizo and quartered lemons to the top of the dish and then served.

Time for some seafood

Staying overnight in Cambridge, well over in Madingley, which is just outside the city. I was wondering where I could get something to eat. In Madingley there is a really nice looking gastropub, but was out of my budget, so I looked into the heart of Cambridge. Yes the Midsummer House was a possibility, if I had loads of spare money and no budget, but I didn’t, so no that wasn’t a possibility…

I had downloaded a Zizzi voucher, quick and easy I thought. Checking where it was, I saw on the map the Loch Fyne. I have been curious about the place for a while now, there are branches in Bath and Bristol, but I have never been, mainly as it was usually quite pricey from memory. I thought I would look at the menu and see what I could be missing. Accessing the website I saw that they had a January offer, 50% off mains. Looking over the menu, I saw lots of things I liked the look of, so that was the place.

The restaurant is on Trumpington Street quite close to the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s an older building and inside there are lots of wooden beams and low ceilings.

I initially thought, well it’s January, cold and a Tuesday, it wouldn’t be very busy, boy was I wrong. The place was packed. I was left waiting for a while, and then asked to sit in the foyer style area, until a table was free. I waited some more. At this point I nearly left.

In the end I went with Loch Fyne Seafood Mixed Grill. The dish as described consists of Scottish salmon, Scottish king scallop, golden shell Hebridean mussels, squid, sea bass fillet, samphire, wilted spinach, lobster butter, and a side of sautéed new potatoes.

I knew the place was busy, so didn’t worry too much about the speed of service, but in the end it was quite quick. The plate looked delicious. There was a huge prawn in the dish, which was nice, as that wasn’t on the dish description.

As I tried the salmon, I realised that the king scallop was missing. Considering how busy it was, I didn’t think I would be able to get the attention of the waiting staff, but I was lucky. He was very apologetic and took the dish and returned shortly with the added scallop, well two scallops.

The dish was well cooked, I enjoyed the salmon and the bass as well as the scallops. The squid was nice, as were the mussels. I couldn’t really taste the lobster butter, but there was a richness there I enjoyed. It comes with a side of sautéed potatoes, which were smooth, buttery and rather tasty.

I was surprised by how busy the place was, but I did quite like the environment. The service wasn’t perfect, but I put that down to the number of people in the place.

Calamares and Paella

Las Banderas on the Holborn Viaduct in Farringdon caught my eye as I went for a lunchtime walk in London. As well as a sit down menu, they also sold a lunchtime takeaway box which looked interesting, so I thought the next time I am looking for lunch I might give them a try.

So when I was back in London, I remembered Las Banderas and decided to try them for lunch. The process of ordering wasn’t as simple as I thought it might be. I went with the Calamares and Paella. This was some battered squid rings with a portion of vegetable paella.

I have to say I had high expectations for the food, but alas I was to be disappointed.

The calamares was somewhat rubbery and to be honest lacked any decent flavour. As for the paella, again it was rather bland.

I don’t think I will be going again. 

Kingfin Calamari

Over the summer I have been finding myself in Bristol on a Friday so I have had the chance to eat at the Finzel Reach market. There is a wide choice of stalls with a varied choice of food. You can have Thai, Pizza, Vegan, Mac ’n Cheese, Dumplings to name a few of the many choices.

Though I do like to try out new things I have found myself over recent visits going to SheSellsSushi and having their delicious Bento Box of beef donburi and a chicken flapper hirata bun.

On my most recent visit there was a new stall I hadn’t seen before, Kingfin who sell fish wraps and chips. As well as their fish wraps, which sounded rather tasty, what really caught my eye was their special, which was Calamari. Everything was cooked to order which was nice to see.

Kingfin Calamari

The squid rings were coated in a flour mix and then deep fried. They were served with aioli, some salad and rosemary fries. This was quite a substantial meal and I had initially thought I might be just a snack and I might need more food, but I was glad to be proved wrong.

Kingfin Calamari

There was quite a decent portion of squid. It was quite tasty, you could certainly taste the difference with the fact they cooked the squid from fresh, rather than heating up or second cooking pre-cooked squid. The fries on the other hand were pre-cooked and then fried again, but this didn’t matter that much. I would have liked more salad. Overall though I really enjoyed the food and would certainly have it again.

Time for a Thai blast from the past

When I was working in Oxford, five years ago, one of my favourite places for lunch was Sais’s Thai in the wonderful covered market. Back in 2014 I wrote about one of my lunches there. Since I left Oxford, I’ve not really had the chance to go back, or certainly no time for lunch. So it was with a little trepidation and anticipation that with time for lunch I found myself venturing into the covered market to see, if firstly Sais’s Thai was still there and if there was room for me for lunch.

Sais’s Thai

It was still there and though just before midday, it was quite crowded, but there was room for me. I could see it was still a popular place.

The menu was as interesting and tempting as I remembered, and I was particularly pleased to see two of my favourite dishes were available that day. So I went with the two dishes and rice. You queue up at the counter, expect to be shouted at a little, and you place your order, which is then plated in front of you. There are some extras, and you can also get a range of drinks. There are also bottles of chilled water (probably tap water) and glasses to have if you don’t want to buy a drink. It’s then a matter of finding a free place to sit, prepare to share your table with others.

The crispy belly pork takes deep fried pork and combines with a range of stir fried vegetables in quite a spicy sauce and Thai Basil. This is quite a hot and spicy dish, but was just as good as I remembered it.

Crispy Pork Belly

I really like this dish, so much so that I often try and recreate it at home. The combination of crispy flavoured pork, a variety of vegetables and a nice spicy sauce is delicious.

I was also pleased to see that they had a squid dish, this was a special and it was stir fried squid with vegetables in a spicy sauce.

Spicy Squid

I was really impressed with the squid, it was so tender, almost melt in the mouth. Squid in a lot of places is overcooked, so is tough and rubbery, this squid though was really soft and tasty. Full of flavour as well.

I really enjoyed my lunch, it was a real blast from the pasta and it was nice to see they had maintained their quality and range of dishes. It was a little more expensive than I remember, but okay I can live with that.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written 35 blog posts.

Tenth post was over ten years old, Chorizo Frito al Vino which was my thoughts on cooking Chorizo sausage in wine.

Chorizo

Ninth place was also about Chorizo, this was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo. Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The eighth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

The number seven post was Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings. The post had a lot of thoughts about mushrooms.

The sixth most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

My fifth post was about retro chocolate. How many of these can you remember? Which were your favourites?

Retro Chocolate

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

Climbing two places, the third most popular post was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recipe.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one Chilli Squid from Wagamama, maintaining it’s top position as the most popular post on the blog.. This post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches.

I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for…

Sometimes having too much choice can be a bad thing. I was up in Sheffield for an event and aiming for a quick meal I popped to the dining quarter of Meadowhall within there are a range of eating options.

The lower level is mainly fast food chains, but I was intrigued by Yangtze, a Chinese takeaway, but the queue was quite long and I really fancied taking my time being waited upon. On the upper level I did like the idea of the Spanish Tapas place, but felt it was quite expensive for what was on offer. There was also Las Iguanas which I don’t think I’ve been to, but looked tempting.

In the end I decided to go with Wagamama. I wanted to try out the Tama Squid, crispy fried squid balls, drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. finished with aonori and bonito flakes. I thought to myself I wouldn’t also mind trying Wagamama’s hirata steam buns to see if they are as good as the ones from She Sells Sushi. For the main course I thought Yakisoba would be a good choice.

As I queued for Wagamama, which seemed to be taking a long time, I thought about it, well of the three dishes I wanted, I could get the same three , well three similar, dishes at YO! Sushi as part of their blue plate Monday offer. So reflecting, I turned away and headed off to YO! Sushi.

As I arrived I could see how busy YO! Sushi was, but was given a warm welcome and they found me a seat very quickly (which was simplified because I was on my own).

The thing about YO! Sushi is you can look at the menu or just take things from the conveyor belt.

While I perused the menu I took a plate of avocado maki.

I then ordered some hot dishes, which took a little time to arrive, but I was expecting that so didn’t mind.

The maki were nice and fresh and was a great start to my meal.

Whilst the ordered dishes arrived I took another dish from the belt, the Beef Tataki Sashimi, which is pepper-seared rare beef and a tangy coriander pesto.

Beef Tataki Sashimi

I’ve wanted to try this dish for a while and it matched my expectations. The beef was nice and tender and I did like the tangy coriander pesto which enhanced both the beef and the grated mooli on the dish.

The next dish was the Vegetable Yakisoba, described as yakisoba noodles in a tangy sauce served with crunchy, fresh vegetables.

Vegetable Yakisoba

I wasn’t impressed with this dish, the tangy sauce wasn’t to my taste and I didn’t like the texture of the noodles so much. I think I should have gone with a rice dish instead. I did wonder if the Wagamama version would be better?

I really like the Spicy Pepper Squid from YO! Sushi.

Spicy Pepper Squid

The spicy marinated squid, fried until crisp was garnished with red chilli and spring onions. I really like the texture and taste of this dish and it did not fail to impress.

When I was placing my order, the server recommended the Cod Nanbanzuke, which though not on the blue plate menu was part of the blue plate deal. The menu describes it as “Japan’s answer to sweet and sour! Crispy fried cod bites in a sweet and sour sauce.”

Cod Nanbanzuke

Though I did think it could have been a little more crispier than it was, I really did enjoy this dish. The cod was tasty and the sweet and sour sauce didn’t overpower the taste of the fish. This was quite a big portion as well.

A little later the final of my four hot dishes I had ordered arrived, a portion of Takoyaki.

Takoyaki

The menu says that this is Osaka’s number one street food! Lightly battered dough balls with octopus, topped with mayo, bonito and lots more.

I thought this was a really nice concept, but wasn’t too hot on the execution of it. It was too much dough and to little octopus.

My final dish was fish. Salmon Sashimi Our freshest cuts of thick-sliced Scottish salmon, with mooli and lemon.

I hadn’t planned to take this dish, but seeing the chef preparing them and thought if there’s any left on the conveyor belt then I will have one. It was a nice clean refreshing dish to finish the meal off with.

Overall I had a really nice meal and the blue plate offer made a difference to the value for money.