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.

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.

Raking over the Coals

Cabot Circus

Out in Bristol and needing somewhere for lunch, we avoided the huge queue for Nando’s and went to the Coal Grill and Bar in Cabot Circus. I still can’t get over the popularity of Nando’s in Cabot Circus, everytime I pass it at lunchtime there is a queue of at least ten to twenty people wanting to eat there. It’s not as though there isn’t a choice as within literally spitting distance is Bella Italia, Giraffe, Frankie and Benny’s, La Tasca and Yo! Sushi. Within a few minutes are about another six to ten restaurants. However regardless of that choice and availability, people are still queuing for Nando’s. I think the other aspect that “confuses” me is that this isn’t some kind of area known for eating out, it’s a shopping centre, people are shopping and I would expect generally that most people want to stop for a reasonably quick lunch. Why would you then in addition spend anything up to half an hour queuing for lunch at Nando’s before you even sit down? Why? Okay I know it’s a place that serves chicken… but it’s chicken? It’s not even if the prices are that different then any of the other places around. Also it’s basically just chicken, whereas the other places have a little more choice on their menus. Ah well, one day I may understand… until then I will remain confused.

So we didn’t go to Nando’s, nor did we go to Yo! Sushi. In the main as the children were with us and though I know one of them loves sushi, the middle one would probably give it a go, the smallest of the three was adamant that she wanted pizza. I know for a fact that Yo! Sushi don’t do pizza, I am not even sure if they do any kind of kids menu. So we did consider Bella Italia, having had a fair few nice meals up in the Cribbs branch, but it was full. We did a quick look round at menus and decided to try out Coal.

We’ve never been before and though they have a few branches across the UK, they’re not that big a chain, so much so that all the branches they have, are listed complete with addresses on the back of a business card.

It was busy, but the polite and smiling manager found us a huge circular booth for the five of us. I forget sometimes that five is an odd number for eating out, it’s not two or four, which seems to be the norm for tables these days at restaurants. In the past it wasn’t too bad as the smallest member of the family would sit in a high chair next to us. She is now a little taller and “grown-up” so has a proper chair now.

We ordered drinks and perused the menu. I did feel that the kids menu lacked a little imagination, but my smallest was happy that they did pizza and the middle one was pleased to be able to choose Spaghetti Bolognese, one of his favourite dishes. Now in case you were thinking that my smallest is a little bit fussy, well she is in her own way, however having said that, she does enjoy linguine tossed with pesto and pancetta, and prefers mature cheddar cheese.

My eldest wasn’t quite sure what to have. He’s ten now and in many ways is too old for the kids menu and often prefers to have something from the main menu. After looking over the menu, he seemed to not know what to choose, so I suggested the Chimichanga (£9.95). This was a flour tortilla stuffed with spicy chicken, tomato salsa and cheese with a side of guacamole, sour cream and garlic rice. He does like this kind of thing and he had missed it when looking over the menu. He really liked it and finished the plate off. Personally I thought it lacked colour and looked a little drab, white tortilla on a bed of white rice with sour cream, with only a little guacamole and salad leaves for colour! Yes the inside of the tortilla had tomato, but that was offset by the white chicken!

Chimichanga flour tortilla stuffed with spicy chicken, tomato salsa and cheese with a side of guacamole, sour cream and garlic rice

My wife went with the Crayfish Salad (£9.65), crayfish tails and avocado mixed leaves, toasted croutons, sundried tomatoes. Though she enjoyed it she wasn’t too impressed with the sundried tomatoes as they lacked vitality and flavour. It did look very nice and certainly there were generous servings of both crayfish and avocado.

I was quite impressed with the range on the menu, but looking over it , and in the end, I decided on the Classic Burger (£9.45).

Classic burger tomato, lettuce, coal-slaw, spicy relish and chips

I really did fancy something from the grill, but likewise didn’t want to spend too much money. I liked how you could choose between having chicken or beef in your burger. I also think that a classic dish such as this gives you a really good idea on the quality of the ingredients and the effort that has gone into food preparation. Presentation was different, but looked impressive. The burger came in a good looking bun, a large slice of tomato and a single lettuce leaf. This was a very good burger, great texture, delicious and cooked to perfection. I also enjoyed the burger bun. The chips came in a miniature deep fat fryer, they were crispy, partly as they had been cooked twice, something I don’t always like, as they can be a little too greasy. Accompanying was some coleslaw and a spicy relish. I enjoyed the whole dish and it worked very well.

The service was excellent, just right, not too over the top that you find at some places, and likewise neither the unavailable kind you get at others. It was friendly and professional and family friendly.

Overall I was really pleased with the whole experience at Coal, it was a nice environment, comfortable atmosphere, great food, excellent service. All in all I enjoyed the meal, and would certainly visit again.