Time for Bakers and Baristas

There are a fair few places you can grab a coffee at when visiting the Mall at Cribbs Causeway. I have been to fair few of them (well would you expect anything less). Back in May we were shopping at the Mall and decided to stop for coffee. Bakers and Barista wasn’t busy so we went there and had a flat white and a muffin. 

The muffin was just okay (not enough raspberries in it) and the coffee was nice.

There was a good range of food when we visited. Not a bad place to have a coffee and they have real china cups as well.

That was an interesting pizza

Back in July we went out to eat for a family celebration. We went to Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway, having quite enjoyed our last visit there in June. The fact they do some good gluten free dishes was also a factor in us choosing it.

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

I had a starter, it was the Tomino con Parma. This was soft Italian cheese wrapped with prosciutto ham and fresh sage, baked in the oven and served with pasta fritti. I hadn’t seen a picture and was a little surprised by what I got.

Having said that, it was an interesting starter, but I really didn’t think much of it, and I wouldn’t have it again.

For my main course I went with the Salsiccia Broccoli Pizza, this was pizza with Basilicata sausage, tenderstem broccoli, red chilli & garlic topped with mozzarella and pecorino cheese on a creamy mascarpone base with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Salsiccia Broccoli Pizza, this was pizza with Basilicata sausage, tenderstem broccoli, red chilli & garlic topped with mozzarella and pecorino cheese on a creamy mascarpone base with a drizzle of balsamic glaze

What I liked about the pizza was that this was quite different to regular pizza, the addition of broccoli and a white base was really nice. I liked the different cheeses as well. It was tasty, but for me there was a little too much chilli on the pizza.

Overall I have been impressed with my most recent visits to Bella Italia. The food has been more interesting, better quality and the service we have had, has been excellent. Well impressed.

Made myself a grilled cheese sandwich

grilled cheese sandwich

As a child I would often eat cheese on toast, these days not so much. Back then we even had a Breville sandwich toaster, which was a bit of a fad in the 1980s, but you can still buy them today.

I remember when a panini was something you would only find in Italy, then they were available everywhere.

These days I will avoid having sandwiches for lunch, and I can’t remember the last time I had a panini. One thing I have had a few times are toasted sandwiches, usually cheese and mushroom.

The other day we were up at the Mall and I needed a break to rest, so we decided to get some coffee and a quick snack. We eventually decided on the Soho Coffee Company, not one of my first choices for coffee, but it wasn’t too crowded. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, I didn’t really want a cake, nor did I want a sandwich, so in the end I chose the mushroom & swiss cheese sourdough toastie. This was described as roasted mushrooms with garlic & black pepper. Swiss cheese & SOHO toastie sauce. Topped with even more Swiss cheese for extra ooziness! Though when it arrived I think the topping of Swiss cheese had been missed off. Still it was rather nice, crunchy bread, melted cheese and nice mushrooms.

So at home and wanting some lunch, I did think about what I wanted and I thought to myself I might create my own grilled cheese toastie. 

I had some M&S San Francisco sourdough bread, which I added some butter to the inside, a slice of Gouda (I had no Swiss cheese), some grated cheddar cheese and a slice of Serrano ham. 

In a frying pan I added some olive oil and some butter and once the butter was melted I added the (what was then) sourdough sandwich. I put a lid on the frying pan, so that the heat would be retained and melt the cheese. I then removed the lid so that the final part of cooking would crisp up the bread.

This was then put on a plate and served. The bread was lovely and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The cheese had melted and was oozing out of the sandwich and the ham added an element of saltiness.

It was really nice, so much so I did think about making myself another one, but I resisted temptation.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Tasty coffee in the hustle and bustle

In the midst of shopping decided to stop at Paterisse Valerie in Cribbs Causeway for a quick coffee. Actually we didn’t want a quick coffee, what we wanted to do was take a break from the crowds, sit down and have a coffee. We did consider going to Pret a Mange, but the queue was really long, and at least with Paterisse Valerie we could sit down and chat while we waited and while we waited for the coffee.

We ordered a few drinks, but I went with a flat white, whilst my eldest went with a latte.

For a French sounding place I feel I really should have had a cafe au lait, but the reality was that no such coffee was on the menu.

The flat white was strong and intense with the smoothness of the milk offering a nice contrast.

The place was busy, so service was slower than I might like, but we spent the time chatting, so it wasn’t an issue.

Time for a toastie…

Looking for a reasonably quick lunch, I decided to venture to Cafe Rouge at Cribbs Causeway. Parts of this venue are quite nice, those tables hidden away in the inside, the tables out towards the entrance are less cosy and it feels more like a service station or typical food court than a French bistro.

My phone contract often provides me with special offers, one of which time was with Cafe Rouge where I could have any burger or croque sandwich for just £5.

I did think initially to have a burger, but decided to have a croque toasted sandwich.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I did think the béchamel sauce was overdone. I was expecting a bit more crunch to the bread, but overall there were some nice flavours.

The fries were a little overdone for my liking and a little bit too much salt.

Service was friendly and welcoming. Maybe a little too attentive, for example, I had literally just taken my first bite when I was asked how was my meal!

Overall it was a nice quick lunch, quite tasty, not perfect, but good value for money.