It was a nice pizza

I do like the rustica pizzas you can get at Zizzi, the thin and crispy base is a tasty alternative to the solid doughy bases you can sometimes have at other (especially American style) chains.

This time I went for the Pinoli Pizza, which can be had with the rustica base. This has goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Pinoli Pizza Goat's cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

The pizza was cooked well, the base was thin and crispy with a hint of soft dough at the edges. The topping, though in my opinion, a little sparse, was tasty and delicious.

The service was warm, welcoming and friendly.

Quick(ish) Greek Lunch

I don’t go to The Real Greek for a while and then I go not just once, but go again real quick.

I had actually intended to have pizza from Bella Vista down by Bristol Bridge, but they were really busy and there was going to be a long wait. I had enjoyed my recent visit so decided to go for their lunch deal again.

As before there was a warm welcome from the staff and this time I chose to sit inside. The Lunch Menu is a fixed price at £8.50, where you can choose between a Greek Trio or a Greek Plate or a Souvlaki Wrap & Side. This time I went with the trio of dishes.

I had the warm flatbread with houmous and taramasalata. A nice starter, though I should have asked for it to all come at once rather than separately. If I had chosen one of the other ramekins available, such as tzatziki, I would like to have that along with the main.

The middle of the trio was Loukaniko beef and pork sausage. A traditional Greek beef and pork sausage, chargrilled and sprinkled with oregano.

Loukaniko beef and pork sausage

I’ve had similar dishes before and really enjoyed them, this was a tasty dish, strong flavours and a really meaty experience. It was served with smoked chilli relish, which I didn’t really like, I found it somewhat harsh and overpowering.

The final choice was the Aegean Slaw, thinly shredded cabbage, carrot, red and green peppers, with an olive oil dressing. I was slightly annoyed that the Loukaniko sausage was already accompanied by a reasonable portion of the Aegean Slaw, so I got extra slaw. If I had know this I might have chosen a different final choice. This was nice, fresh and crunchy.

The service was excellent, and it was a pleasant lunchtime experience with some great food, great value and nice environment.

Go Greek (again)

The Real Greek

It’s been a while since I was last at The Real Greek and I have been meaning to make a return visit for a while. Well looking for a place to eat and sit, even though it was a Thursday with the Temple Quay market been very tempting, I with a couple of friends decided to visit The Real Greek.

There was a warm welcome and what with the music playing inside, we asked to sit outside. Now outside was a weird thing as we were inside Cabot Circus, a shopping centre in the heart of Bristol. Even though technically it was inside the shopping centre, the way Cabot Circus has been designed and built, it’s more of a covered shopping area, in some places you can see sky above you and the whole place is open to the elements. So even though we were outside the restaurant, there was a glass roof above us. Having said all that, once you were sat down, it didn’t feel like you were in the heart of a shopping centre, it felt more like you were in a street cafe sitting outside watching the world go by, without the cars and scooters you would probably find in Greece.

It was really nice that a carafe of water (as in free tap water) was provided without us needing to ask. The last time I went I said

The Real Greek has a great lunchtime menu, and if I visit again I will probably choose from that and it looks like great value. 

So I went to have a look this time at the lunch menu, though I was still somewhat tempted by the hot meze choices of grilled octopus and the lamb cutlets that I had on the previous visit.

The Lunch Menu is a fixed price at £8.50, where you can choose between a Greek Trio or a Greek Plate or a Souvlaki Wrap & Side.

The Lunch Menu

The trio’s are fun coming on an afternoon tea style rack with the starter on the top, the main in the middle and the accompaniment on the bottom. Well I think it should arrive like that. Both times I have been, the dishes have been mixed around… The trio is also a great choice if you are vegan, as there are plenty of vegan choices available.

I went with the Halloumi Greek Plate which was served with saffron rice, a Greek salad, tzatziki and warm flatbread.

Halloumi Greek Plate

The halloumi was very nice, grilled, but not overcooked. The interesting texture, saltiness and flavour was balanced with the vibrant Greek salad comprising peppers, tomatoes, feta and lettuce. I enjoyed the flatbread which was soft and fresh.

Overall I really enjoyed the plate of food in a pleasant environment (and great company).

I think I will go again.

Great Greek Food

I am quite surprised by the turnover of restaurants in Cabot Circus. The branch of Cafe Rouge closed and was replaced by a Five Guys burger place. La Tasca, the Spanish tapas bar was shut down and the location became a Wagamama.

The Chimmi-Changa restaurant which I remembering visiting once, has recently closed and has been replaced with a new Greek place, The Real Greek. I did quite like the Chimmi-Changa concept, but having eaten there once, and rarely if ever having lunchtime specials, it wasn’t a place I ever went to again. If other people were thinking like me, not surprised it closed.

Obviously the whole place has been refurbished and has more of a New England feel to the place then a Greek taverna. There is a lot of blue coloured wood. It’s calm and welcoming.

The Real Greek

The Real Greek has a great lunchtime menu, and if I visit again I will probably choose from that and it looks like great value. Looking over the main menu, they have a range of hot and cold meze dishes. I had two dishes, the grilled kalamari and the lamb cutlets. I had considered going with one of the lunchtime specials, but really wanted to eat squid and lamb, as they are two of my favourite foods and also are considered Greek specialities. They weren’t on the lunch menu, but the meze dishes are still good value for money.

The menu describes the lamb as grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt.

grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt

Though advertised as a meze dish this was quite a substantial plate of food. As well as three grilled tender lamb cutlets, they were arranged on a bed of tasty lentils. The flavour was great and really tasty.

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

Overall I really enjoyed the food, it was fresh, tasty and looked great. The service was really good, friendly and welcoming without being overpowering.

Time for a really big burger

Having taken my eldest for an early evening shopping trip, we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading home.

We didn’t really know what we wanted. Two places did appeal, Casa Brasil and The Real Greek, however both of these are so new they haven’t opened yet.

The Real Greek is replacing Chimmi-changa. I did have a nice meal there a couple of years ago, but hadn’t been back since. Quite like the idea of the new Greek place.

Casa Brasil, which is next door to Pizza Express will be an all you can eat barbecue restaurant. Again quite like the sound of this place.

However as both hadn’t opened yet, we had to make another choice. I was finding this quite a challenge but in the end the 2-4-1 on mains at Giraffe was the deciding factor. This seemed quite a generous offer for a Friday night, but then I wasn’t complaining. I was still being indecisive so went the Giraffe Ultimate Burger, where my eldest went with the beef brisket burger. So I enjoyed my burger, I think he made the better choice.

Burger

This was a generous burger complete with bacon and cheese, as well as two beef patties. This was full of flavour, not overly seasoned. A bit challenging to eat with your heads (as you would with a smaller burger) so out with the knife and fork. did enjoy eating the burger and the fries were nice.

Reflecting I realised there are quite a few burger places in Cabot Circus, there is the Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Five Guys, Frankie and Benny’s must sell a fair few burgers as well. They are a staple of Coal too. Both Zizzi and Bella Italia has them on their menu too, not sure how Italian they are though?

I quite liked the environment at Giraffe, the staff were welcoming and friendly. With the two for one offer, it was also quite reasonably priced.

Rusty Pizza

There are times when I want to eat pizza and then there are times I do not. Then there are times when I have no idea what I want to eat, I am hungry, but the choice on the menu is giving me a challenge on what to choose. It was the latter challenge when on a recent Saturday we decided to have lunch during a shopping trip to Bristol. We chose Zizzi in Cabot Circus in the main as we had some vouchers to use there, so at least that was a choice I didn’t have to make!

Though this is a modern shopping mall, and despite that, I do like the decor of Zizzi and the environment. The use of old cupboard doors on the walls for example add a really rustic, yet modern feel to the space. It was quite early for lunch when we arrived, but even so they had no four cover tables left, so we had two twos stuck together in a quieter part of the restaurant. Well I say quieter, there was a large table reserved for a party, which thankfully didn’t arrive until after we had finished and left.

The welcome was warm and we spent a little time looking over the menu. There were lots of things on the menu which took my fancy, but in the end I went with the Autumn Special: Smoky Chorizo & Wild Boar Rustica Pizza.

Smoky Chorizo & Wild Boar Rustica Pizza.

This stretched thin crust pizza was described as coming with smoked mozzarella, Trealy farm smoked chorizo salami, wild boar meatballs, sunblush tomatoes, grated riserva cheese, purple basil & chilli threads.

Alas I didn’t get the purple basil, just the regular green kind. I also didn’t read the menu so wasn’t sure what the threads were until I checked the website later, they were certainly not spicy.

I do like the rustica style of pizza from Zizzi. The crust was nice and the toppings were really tasty.

Quick Chimichanga

Looking for a relatively quick lunch, but also wanting to sit down I was intrigued by the recently new branch of Chimichanga in Cabot Circus. Initially I was put off by the prices on the menu, well this was supposed to be lunch and I didn’t want to spend too much money. It looked like they didn’t have a special lunch menu, but then I noticed a board standing outside advertising 40% of mains by downloading a code. So a quick browse on the phone I had a voucher code so in I went.

Inside there was a modern clean feel to the place. There was a choice of booths or tables. There wasn’t much of a Mexican feel to the place, some browns and oranges, but not much else really. It reminded me somewhat of Giraffe or Coal, nothing distinctive that made it feel different or that you were eating food inspired by Mexico and the Deep South.

It was quite empty, but was greeted on arrival by friendly waiting staff. I was given the choice of sitting where I wanted to. This was a nice option, all too often when visiting restaurants you are rarely given the choice of where to sit. Sitting down I looked over the menu. Yes I was tempted by the Calamares, well I really enjoy squid, but I had decided that I probably didn’t have the time for a starter so straight into looking at the mains. The menu is split into Tex Grill and Mex Kitchen choices, as you might imagine with a place such as this, there were the usual choices. In the Tex Grill you found the ubiquitous burgers, ribs and steaks. The Mex Kitchen had burritos, enchiladas, quesadilla sandwiches and the signature chimichanga. There are quite a few vegetarian options within the Mex Kitchen menu, based around beans or portobello mushrooms. In the end I went with a fajita dish.

A sizzling skillet of sautéed peppers and onions with marinated fajita steak. With fresh guacamole, jack cheese, sour cream and fresh salsa. Served with warm tortillas.

It wasn’t quite sizzling, I remember having a fajita dish at TGI Fridays back in 1999 and that sizzled. There was a good lot of peppers and onions, topped with a sliced grill steak. Personally I would have preferred if the steak had been cooked with the peppers and onions, but even so this was very tasty. Alongside the skillet, came four small warm tortillas along with some really nice fresh tasting salsa, proper chunky guacamole, as well as grated jack cheese and some sour cream. I did feel the torrillas were a little small making it difficult to wrap around a filling, so despite the fact this was finger food, I ate it with a knife and fork, otherwise I could see it going all over my shirt!

Overall I really did enjoy the dish, and with the 40% off, thought it was quite good value for lunch. I didn’t think it was as good as the tacos (with soft flour tortillas) I have had at Mission Burrito or at Barburrito in Paddington, however they were takeaway and one of the key issues for me was finding a place to sit down. There is a van selling those kinds of tacos and burritos by Bristol Bridge which I may try on another occasion.

Breads and Cheeses

Sometimes you find really nice places in the most unobivous of locations.

I don’t go to Cabot Circus in Bristol that often, but when I do I am somewhat surprised by how busy the restaurant places are. There are loads of people queuing to eat at Nandos, Bella Italia always looks packed, as does Yo Sushi.

Though I have to say I was somewhat surprised to find out the other day that La Tasca at Cabot Circus had closed (and will be replaced by a Wagamama). I went to La Tasca last July and said back then:

It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.

I finished off by saying:

I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again…

I wonder if my experience was similar, as a result there was a lack of repeat custom and if you are losing sales, it makes sense to close.

It might be more that people have fallen out of favour with tapas and have moved onto other things… Nandos judging by the queues if you were to ask me.

We went to La Tasca back then, as we didn’t want to eat at the restaurant in Harvey Nichols, as my wife put it “she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark!” So it was somewhat strange that on our most recent visit to Cabot Circus we did end up in the bar at Harvey Nichols.

This was a really peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the shopping quarter and it was nice to just sit down, relax and be waited upon.

We weren’t there for a meal, just a glass of wine and a snack. The wine list was comprehensive and interesting, and I thought very reasonable, a lot cheaper than I was expecting and anticipated. It was also very nice wine.

In terms of snacks we ordered the rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a nice bar snack at just £3.50.

 rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We also splashed out and went with the cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread, which was a little more pricey at £8.00.

 cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread

The breads were really nice and interesting. There were ciabatta style breadsticks, focaccia, and some very unusual gingerbread style bread (not quite gingerbread, but similar). The cheeses were really nice, there was a farmhouse cheddar, a type of brie and a hard Spanish cheese. The chutney was nice, not too strong, but still full of flavours. Alongside came some celery and apple. Both snacks were really tasty and complemented the wines we had chosen.

Now they do that thing, which I don’t really like “a discretionary 10% service charge will be added to all bills” and to be honest I don’t understand. Either include the “service” in the prices or let the customer make the choice about rewarding good service. Using a term like “discretionary” implies that it is a choice, but unless you had really terrible service, you wouldn’t likely say that you were going to not pay it. I also think it stops people tipping more!

Just as an aside really, what I did notice was that (even with the discretionary 10% service charge) many of the prices were quite reasonable. The different coffees available were cheaper than those you would find in a high street chain nearby, and unlike those where you would have to wait at the counter for your coffee, here you would have a waiter deliver the coffee to your table. Much more civilised, wouldn’t you say?

Overall this was a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle that is Cabot Circus and recommended for a quiet drink, whether that be wine or coffee.

Well that was a really nice pizza

On a recent visit to Cabot Circus we looked at where to eat, slightly constrained as were using some Tesco vouchers. We were restricted to Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge or Strada.

Strada was out of the running as it was up in Clifton Village. After our last experience at Bella Italia in Cabot, we made the decision to go to Cafe Rouge. However a quick look over the menu, meant though fine for most of us, there wasn’t anything that appealed to the two youngest members of our party. They were dead set on having pizza and spaghetti bolognese. No new tastes for them today, so a little downhearted we went to Bella Italia.

On our last visit to this branch, writing about it I said

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.

We did venture to the Cribbs branch after that meal and had a much better experience. I suspect that did influence how we felt about going to the Cabot Circus branch.

It was just after noon on a Saturday and the place was already buzzing. Nando’s next door was already full! As we ate our meal the place to busier and fuller, even the outside tables were full (despite it been quite cold and windy, even for May). I noticed as we left too how busy everywhere was.

What I have noticed more and more is how few places seem to be able to cope with five people. Plenty of tables for twos and fours, but very little for five. I think in the future we will probably need to be more planned and book tables in advance otherwise I think we could be disappointed, especially as how busy it eventually came.

Though the place was buzzing, it wasn’t that busy, but it took ages for the menus to appear, in the end I actually needed to ask for them. We took our time and when asked what drinks we wanted we were ready to order the food.

So what of the meal?

Well I was pleased to see that they had a special chalked on their blackboard and I went with that. This was Pizza Argosta that was topped with lobster, saffron, harrisa, red peppers, courgettes, parsley and rosemary. I also thought very reasonably priced at £8.95.

This was a thin crust pizza (as they usually are at Bella Italia) that was well cooked and very well presented.

Pizza Argosta that was topped with lobster, saffron, harrisa, red peppers, courgettes, parsley and rosemary.

There was a good potion of toppings and you didn’t feel anything was missing (well apart from the rosemary). The lobster tasted of lobster, the saffron was certainly apparent, both in taste and colour. I liked the thinly sliced courgette which was just cooked and was delicious. Overall a really nice different pizza and very tasty.

My wife went with the Formaggio di Capra. This was a salad made with melting goat’s cheese and red pepper tapenade on giant ciabatta croutons. Along with baby spinach, rocket, green beans, caramelised onions, roasted red peppers, olives and fresh basil in a rosemary balsamic dressing.

Formaggio di Capra

She initially thought it was a little on the large side, but she enjoyed it and polished it off. I thought it was really good value for £8.95.

My son at his last visit to Bella Italia had gone with the Gamberoni at £9.95, that is described on the menu as eight succulent king prawns sautéed with spaghetti, garlic and chilli in a spicy pomodoro sauce. He decided to go down the route again and ordered it.

Gamberoni

I did think it was better presented the last time he had it. My son really enjoyed the dish again though, and finished it all off.

As for the pizza for the youngest, well that was in my opinion on the small side, but was enjoyed. I think if your child is older then eight or nine they would find that pizza too small. My youngest is four so was just right for lunch.

Pizza

The spaghetti bolognese was also enjoyed by my middle one especially as he got a nice generous portion of parmesan on top.

I don’t usually eat puddings, but sometimes it’s nice to share and we went with the Godfather. According to the online menu, this contains nutty fudge brownies, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, fresh cream, chocolate popping candy, dark chocolate sprinkles and a wafer curl. According to the menu we actually read in the restaurant it said honeycomb ice cream. We did get vanilla, but no chocolate popping candy. At this point the staff were very busy and it was only a minor thing, so couldn’t be bothered to make a fuss. I am not even sure I like the popping candy, so probably a better dish for it.

The only challenge was to pay the bill, and I was left standing for ages before I could pay the bill. That was disappointing.

Overall the food was very good and enjoyed by all, really well presented and cooked. Service was adequate, yes they were busy and apart from some minor glitches, was okay. However nothing to write home about, we have had much better service at other places. Would we go again? Yes I think we would.

Bella’ish

Cabot Circus

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.