One of these is not like the other

On my most recent visit to Prezzo, I decided to have something different, however they had a run on the Calabria Burger so I had to choose something else. I had enjoyed the Fiorentina Pizza on a previous visit. So needing to make a quick decision, I decided to go again with the Fiorentina Pizza that I had last time.

The Fiorentina Pizza is a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg. The last time I thought this was a very tasty pizza, I really liked the toppings and the base was cooked well.

So as you can imagine my expectations were quite high, however though my pizza was nice, the egg, which last time had a nice soft yolk, was fully cooked this time. The flavour was still there, but I had a slight twinge of disappointment that it didn’t look like this.

Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg.

I did contemplate complaining, but wasn’t sure if I had grounds for a valid complaint, especially as I wasn’t sure how the egg was supposed to be cooked on the pizza, maybe the last time I had it, it wasn’t supposed to have a soft yolk.

Another visit to Prezzo

It took five years from my first visit to Prezzo to visit it again. This time is was less than month since my previous visit to go there again.

Having had an enjoyable meal at their branch in Euston, this visit was a family celebration at the branch in Weston-super-Mare. This is quite a new branch, less than a year old. We arrived early evening on a Saturday, or you could have even described it as late afternoon. It’s a nice smart clean restaurant with a variety of seating options available. We were quite a large party so we just had some tables pushed together. We were given a warm welcome and we sat down perused the menu. Unlike a lot of places these days, their set menu is available all the time, seven days a week and it is quite a good set menu at that.

I started with the Caprese Salad, tomato and burrata cheese with basil pesto and balsamic glaze.

Caprese Salad

The tomato was ripe and the burrata cheese was fresh and tasty. A really nice starter.

I had the Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg.

Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg.

This was a very tasty pizza, I really liked the toppings and the base was cooked well.

I wasn’t going to go with a desert, but I did fancy a coffee, looking over the dessert menu, I went with the Affogato. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream served with a double shot of espresso and a lemon cannoli. Wasn’t too enamoured with the cannoli, but did enjoy the espresso over ice cream.

Overall a tasty meal. The service did leave a little bit to be desired, initially it started off well and our food arrived in a timely manner. However we did get asked three times if we wanted dessert, seemed they were desperate to provide us with dessert. They also provided us with the wrong bill. Ah well, it was a tasty meal.

Time for breakfast

breakfast at The Walton

I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.

A recent breakfast experience at the Holiday Inn Express was very disappointing, with minimal choice, not much different a previous experience a few years back. However recently I was able to repeat the breakfast experience at The Walton Hotel in Nottingham. I first stayed at The Walton back in 2016.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.

breakfast at The Walton

This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.

Pork done three ways

That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…

The new menu didn’t inspire mess so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.

breakfast at The Walton

The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.

These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.

Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

Breakfast, wasn’t much better…

I recently wrote about my dinner at the Holiday Inn Expressx and I wasn’t that impressed. You can imagine that my expectations about breakfast weren’t that high, but how badly can you cook a hotel breakfast. As it happens quite badly!

Even though I certainly don’t travel that much, I think you can tell a lot about the way a hotel cares about it’s guests by how it prepares and serves breakfast. When attending events and conferences I like to have a good breakfast so that I am set up for the day and it won’t matter so much if I miss lunch or dinner. To be honest it is also really quite nice when someone else cooks you breakfast.

Most hotels I have stayed at have the breakfast buffet model, you come down, queue, hand over your room number and help yourself. There are variations, in some places you get toast served to you at the table, at other hotels you can burn your own toast!

Once I was staying at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff and having breakfast in your room didn’t cost anything extra! There was (at the time) no tray charge, usually hotels charge another £5 to bring you your breakfast. So I took advantage and it was a really nice breakfast, still warm too!

Attending meetings in London, I stayed at the Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury London a few times I was always impressed with their service and food. The first time I had breakfast, though there was an element of help yourself, if you wanted hot food, you placed your order with the waiting staff and they served you at your table. The breakfast was also very different to your typical full English breakfast.

Breakfast at Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury

Not so sure about the lettuce, but the rest of the breakfast was cooked to perfection and tasted delicious. They used “proper” sausages that had been grilled and not deep fried. Too often when eating breakfast the sausages have been cooked in a deep fat fryer! The breakfast I had at Bloomsbury was so very different and was delicious. This was so much more civilised than trying to fight with others around the buffet table.

One piece of advice I would give is don’t leave it too late in going to breakfast, there are two key reasons. Firstly the food is not only fresher and hasn’t spent ages under the heat lamp or in an oven. Secondly, there are usually a lot less people. The other piece of advice I would give about what time to go to breakfast is that people usually go on the hour or half-hour. Most people will say let’s have breakfast at 8:00 or 7:30, no one every says 7:48. Of course what this means is that there are large crowds, and so long queues, just after 8:00. Arriving twelve minutes before means that the 7:30 rush is over and you get not only much better service from the staff, but the experience doesn’t feel rushed and hectic.

One disappointment about the breakfast buffet are the eggs, they have usually been under a heat lamp or on a hot plate. As a result they can be dry and overcooked. I personally prefer my eggs to be freshly cooked, so nine times out of ten I ask for poached eggs, these are cooked to order, so though I have to wait, I get freshly cooked eggs.

As you might expect I am virtually always disappointed with the coffee at breakfast, so much so, that more often than not I will have tea instead!

So what about the breakfast at Holiday Inn Express in Burnley? When I arrived for breakfast, I could just walk in, no checking by staff. Probably because they were dealing with the smoke from the burning toast… I wasn’t that enamoured with the breakfast, the hot buffet was very limited, sausages, scrambled egg and baked beans; that was it, no other choices and certainly no possibility of a freshly cooked poached egg! You could also have fruit and yoghurt, as well as cereal. There were croissants and you could make your own toast. The coffee was from a machine (using instant) so I had tea.

However this isn’t the worse cooked breakfast I have had (it came close though), the worst was at a Travel Lodge in central London. So bad that on the second morning, I went out to get breakfast.

So a rather disappointing breakfast all in all.

Screme Eggs!!!

It’s not even Christmas, let alone Easter, and there are chocolate eggs already on sale in my local shops!

These are not Creme Eggs, they are Screme Eggs!!!

Obviously produced and on sale for Halloween I am not sure though what eggs have to do with Halloween. Chocolate pumpkins I could understand, but green eggs…

Trying to expand their market beyond Easter methinks… what next Christmas Eggs?

Fried Eggs on Toast

I have talked about scrambled and poached, but now and again I like the idea of fried eggs on toast.

Very tasty they were too.

Poached Eggs

This morning I had poached eggs for breakfast. I don’t use a egg poaching pan, simply a pan of simmering water.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, I then stir the boiling water into a “spin” and crack the egg into the spinning vortex. Turn down the heat to a simmer, put the bread into the toaster, when the toast pops up, usually the eggs are done, firm white and soft yolk.

A lot of books I have read (and seen on cookery programmes on the TV) say that you should add vinegar to the water to “stop the egg from breaking apart” as you cook it. Personally I don’t add vinegar as I find it has a minimal or negligible effect (in other words I have seen eggs break apart even with vinegar in the water) and it has to be said it adds a vinegar flavour to the egg. I certainly noticed this when I last had poached eggs in a hotel recently.

I find that actually the best thing is to use really fresh eggs, it is old eggs that fall apart when poaching and not the use of vinegar that keeps it together, as you can see in the picture of my eggs above, still nice and whole! Just some freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Breakfast for dinner

I don’t normally have breakfast for dinner, but with what I had in the fridge and having little time after getting back from work I wanted something quick to eat.

A couple of slices of black pudding were fried in a pan, I prefer it grilled, but time was of the essence, so fried they were. It is worth seeking out some good quality black pudding.

I also scrambled a couple of eggs. My technique is to put a knob of butter into a pan and then add the beaten eggs. Low heat and stirring a lot with a fork. Turn off the heat just before you think they’re done and let the residual heat cook the eggs off.

I took a ciabatta roll and sliced it in half and popped one half in the toaster.

To serve I took the toasted ciabatta, cut it into two, placed on it a slice of black pudding, topped it with the scrambled egg and freshly ground black pepper. The plate was finished off with half of a fresh tomato.

Yes this would also make a nice breakfast, but it makes a nice dinner too.

Poaching Eggs

When poaching eggs I use to use one of those poaching pans, you know the kind a frying pan that has four little “cups” into which you break your eggs over boiling water. The eggs come out as though they were a top sliced football.

Having once asked for poached eggs in a hotel and getting those that had been done in just a pan of simmering water, I knew that I would have to attempt to do it.

I was surprised by how easy it was and since then I have always poached my eggs in this way.

Simply put, bring a pan of water to the boil, I then stir the boiling water into a “spin” and crack the egg into the spinning vortex. Turn down the heat to a simmer.

Poaching Eggs

At this point I put my halved bagel (or slices of bread) into the toaster when this is done then I know my eggs are done.

Poached Eggs on Bagel

A lot of books I have read (and seen Chefs on the TV) say that you should add vinegar to the water to “stop the egg from breaking apart” as you cook it. Personally I don’t add vinegar as I find it has a minimal or negligible effect (in other words I have seen eggs break apart even with vinegar in the water) and it also adds a vinegar flavour to the egg. I certainly noticed this when I last had poached eggs in a hotel recently.

I find that actually the best thing is to use really fresh eggs, it is old eggs that fall apart when poaching and not the use of vinegar, however I may be wrong on this. Though as you can see in the picture of my eggs above, still nice and whole!