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.
We went for lunch at Zizzi in Cabot Circus back in August 2019.
Though I have pizza most times I visit Zizzi, on this visit, not being overtly hungry I went with pasta. I had the Ravioli di Capra. Goat’s cheese & spinach-flecked ravioli with a tomato sauce, super green pesto & pine nuts.
Delicious but not a huge dish, so finished quite quickly.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions, restaurants from the 12th April were allowed to open for outside eating only. To be honest I wasn’t that excited about this, however with my birthday on the 13th we made the decision to go out to eat to celebrate. Last year on my birthday we were in the full lockdown and there was very little we could go and do, so had a lovely celebration at home and we had a fish supper with stir fry. So this year we were thinking could we do something different and could we go out to eat.
We booked a table at Zizzi at Cabot Circus in Bristol. This is “outside” but is in many ways under some kind of cover as well. So if it did rain, it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on the experience. We did wrap up warm though.
We had a warm if slightly confused welcome from the manager and we were shown to our table.
The paper disposable menus provided a wide choice, but I did quite fancy pizza so I went with the Rustica Primavera which has goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes & super green pesto.
It looked great when it arrived.
I really liked the freshness of the spinach, rocket and fresh pesto on the pizza. Though I like goat’s cheese, I actually think that I might prefer this pizza without it. The dough base was nice, and as it was stretched some areas were thin and cripsy, whilst other parts of the pizza were thick and doughy. I liked the olives and artichokes along with the tomatoes and peppers.
To celebrate a birthday we decided to end up at Zizzi in Cabot Circus. The place was busy, and we had to wait about ten minutes for a table. Well to say the place was busy, was a bit of a poor description. There were plenty of free tables, but I think they were short-staffed, so couldn’t serve all the tables, or cook the food. Regardless of the reason, there were empty tables, and we were shown to our (small) table.
The welcome was warm and friendly and it was easy to order our food. Our dietary requirements were taken care of and we pursued the menu.
I went with the Rustica Primavera, which is their stretched pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes, super green pesto & rocket.
The pizza was cooked well and there was an abundance of toppings, even so I would have liked a but more artichoke. The pesto was nice, and I quite like fresh rocket on my pizza, I feel I am eating something healthier than it actually is.
I really enjoyed my pizza, there is something consistent about the quality of the food and the service at Zizzi, which means I go there a lot, more than other chains. Having said that, looking over the blog, I realise not only am I going to Zizzi a lot, I am also basically eating the same pizza each time I go.
When it comes to chains, I really do like eating at Zizzi. Unlike some other chains, I don’t think I have ever had a need to complain. The branch at Cabot Circus is very nice and I have been there quite a few times. Despite the openness of the restaurant it doesn’t feel crammed with tables like a canteen, even when it gets busy.
We had a warm welcome and we could choose where we wanted to sit, which was nice.
There is quite a varied menu, but in the end I went with theClassic Pinoli Pizza. This has goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.
Checking the blog I realised that I had been to this branch of Zizzi in Bristol back in March and had ordered the same pizza then as I had this time.
Back then it was tasty and this time it was equally tasty. Last time I had it on a rustica thin and crispy base, this time I went with the doughy classic base.
The service was quick and efficient, but we weren’t rushed at all.
Now and again I have to attend conference dinners, most of the time they are like “just okay” mass produced meals that are served without care, then there are those meals which become a really nice memory. At a recent training programme in Leicester College Court I did have a really nice meal. As well as being really well cooked and presented it consisted of things I hadn’t eaten before.
For the starter we had ‘Life on Mars’ this was described on the menu as planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil.
The “surface” was a savoury sponge that I have seen before on cooking programmes, but not eaten. It was a nice texture to add to the flavoursome goat’s cheese. I wasn’t enamoured with the pickled mushrooms, but they did add a contrast in flavour. The porcini soil added a nice taste and another texture.
For the main course we had pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco.
The duck breast was perfectly cooked, but I felt lacked seasoning and my portion was a little on the small side. The first plate I was given had a decent duck portion but was missing the pastille, so I was given a different plate, but a smaller portion of the duck breast. The pastille was interesting, cooked duck leg in filo pastry, something that might be called a spring roll. Again lacked flavour. I do liked grilled Romanesco, but when grilling something like Romanesco or cauliflower it really needs to be served straight away. It had been left too long since cooking and as a result was a little soggy and lacked the crispness that grilling can impart, nice flavours though. I enjoyed the sweet potato done two ways, a nicely cooked disc and a puree. The salsify was interesting but didn’t add much to the dish.
Desert was described as a chocolate and honeycomb moon, though to be honest it looked more like that space station.
It was a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb. I was worried it might be over sweet, but actually was just right, a clever desert full of interesting flavours and textures and great presentation. A really nice end to a nice meal.
Down on Baldwin Street in the heart of Bristol is a little piece of France. La Buvette is a characterful little wine bar which also serves some really nice food.
La Buvette is owned and run by the Riverstation’s Peter Taylor. Peter runs a hotel in rural France called Auberge de Chassignolles and when it closed for the winter months, Peter came back to Bristol in December and he opened Bar Buvette a pop-up Parisian-style natural wine bar. It seems to have been a success and has become more of a permanent feature.
I found out about La Buvette from an article in the Evening Post weekend supplement. So the following Tuesday thinking that this would be a nice place for a quick lunch I popped down to find it closed. Alas they only open for lunch on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so I had to find somewhere else…
Last week I was in Bristol on a Friday, so I thought, hmm, this could be a good time to try out La Buvette. I arrived at quarter past twelve, it was open and only one other table was taken, well it was quite early for lunch. The staff were welcoming and friendly and as they were still writing the menu out on the blackboard.
Listening carefully I decided to go with the boudin with duck egg. When it arrived I was a little surprised to find that it was black pudding, or boudin noir! Maybe I should have listened a little more carefully. The waiting staff did say that this was a small dish, so I ordered a beetroot salad alongside the boudin noir.
The environment was really atmospheric, it felt very French, the wooden furniture, the bottles on the wall and the pictures on the wall.
The boudin noir was cooked to perfection, it was soft and full of lovely flavours, and the richness of the duck egg complemented it well.
The beetroot salad was made from different dressed roasted beetroot complemented with goat’s cheese curds. This was sharp and tasty.
Upon reflection I think I might have ordered just one dish along with some bread. This would have been better value for lunch, but I did really enjoy both dishes. The total cost was £12.50 as I basically had two dishes, with bread the cost would have been around £7.50 which is better, but still quite expensive for lunch. However the food was great, the staff friendly and excellent service, it will be a place I would like to visit again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My last experience with Bella Italia was rather a disappointment, so with a little trepidation we went there for dinner, though this time it was a much better experience.
When we had arrived the place was quite empty, well it was after 4pm and you wouldn’t expect it to be that busy. What I didn’t realise when we left just before 6pm the place was buzzing and pretty much full. It certainly didn’t feel like that sitting down, I suspect the main reason is that this branch of Bella Italia is very much zoned into different areas, with clever use of walls and bannisters (or railings) though the place is quite big, you actually feel you are in a much smaller cosier venue. Compare this with the Bella Italia at Cabot Circus which is smaller, but feels much bigger and more open, and as a result less cosy.
There was a different menu to the time we last went and I would say that I was certainly less inspired. It felt a little more bland and corporate than previous visits, but that doesn’t mean it is, it just felt that way.
As a last minute choice I went with a starter and chose, despite my plan to be choosing different things, I went with the calamari at £5.95. Lightly breaded and deep fried tender squid, with lemon and caper mayonnaise. The squid was tender, but I have had much nicer squid at Bella Italia. It was apparent they had changed the recipe (well probably supplier). The last time I had the squid it included the tentacles as well as pieces of squid, and they were covered in a parmesan batter. This time they were rings and were breaded rather than battered. The only criticism I would make back then was that sometimes they overcooked the squid, this time though with the new recipe they didn’t.
So what about the main courses?
My son decided to go 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. As with a previous experience the waiting staff did ask if he wanted the chilli to which he replied yes. I find it amusing that they say eight prawns, obviously a combination of marketing the dish, and making sure that people don’t complain about the number of prawns! My son really enjoyed the dish and finished it all off.
After a lot of thought I went with the Formaggio Double Burger at £12.95, described in the menu as a double Americano with melted mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola cheese. It was served in a soft ciabatta bun with fries and smoked tomato and onion relish.
Firstly if they are chips, they are not fries! Fries are thin and skinny and the chips are chunky. These were chunky! The best way to describe them was as okay, they weren’t awful, but they were certainly not the best chips I had. Reflecting on this I think the problem was they were quite tasteless.
The burger though on the other hand was delicious. I was very impressed with the flavour and the texture. It was just how I like it. When I compare this one, the last time I had a burger at the Holiday Inn Express. When I ordered it, I was a little concerned that the three cheeses would overpower the dish, but that wasn’t the case, they complemented the burgers really well.
My wife went with the Portobello Mushroom Burger, which was a portobello mushroom, with goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper and onion, baby gem leaves, tomato and mayonnaise, served in a soft ciabatta bun. What I found funny was that she thought this was just the topping on a regular burger, she didn’t realise that the mushroom was the burger. Despite that “mistake” she really enjoyed it, she said it was delicious and the really liked the goat’s cheese.
My two younger children went with the pizza and spaghetti bolognese and both of them really enjoyed their food and ate a lot of it.
As for service, well I would say that the place got it just right. We had really good service throughout the meal.
I’ve not been to Prezzo before, there isn’t one close by that I had seen, though I have since found one in Bristol, they occupy the old leadworks where the Firehouse Rotisserie was. However on a recent visit to York, we decided to have lunch there.
It did feel a little “posh” when we went in, and as a family I wasn’t sure we had made the right choice. The ambience, the decor and look of the place was very much a sophisticated place than a family run Italian restaurant. I shouldn’t have worried as the waiting staff immediately made us feel at ease, guided us to a table with a great view outside and provided colouring pencils and stuff to do for the children. Though my first impression was of a place not suitable for a family, they certainly provided a service that welcomed families.
Looking over the menu, the smallest in our family chose pizza, whilst the second youngest chose spaghetti bolognese.
My wife went with the Bianca Pizza for £9.95, I chose the Lobster and Crab Tortelli at £11.95. My eldest son was a little hesitant, at ten years old he often finds the children’s menu a little too young. I don’t think he’s forgiven us when we ordered a children’s meal for him recently and it came on a teddy bear plate! Having said that though, he still enjoy’s a kids lunchbox. In the end after lookng over the menu, he went with the Fusilli with Italian Sausage at £9.25. This is described as being made with red onion, garlic, fresh rocket and fresh chilli in a spicy tomato sauce.
The waiting staff were certainly taken aback when we placed our order and did say that the Fusilli pasta dish was quite spicy. However my son was happy with that and he does enjoy spicy food.
As we waited for our food and looked out the window we realised that this wasn’t an ideal location for a restaurant on the corner of a reasonably busy junction.
However what with fire engines and lots of buses passing by, the children loved it, and spent most of the waiting time looking out of the window. They didn’t have to wait long though, as the food arrived promptly and looked great.
I had ordered the Lobster and Crab Tortelli which came with baby spinach and red chilli in a creamy saffron sauce. I have decided that this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. This was certainly something very different, as I can’t recall ever ordering a filled pasta like this before.
This wasn’t an excessively large portion, but certainly wasn’t tiny either. For me it was about right. The pasta was cooked to perfection, not too soft with still some bite. I did feel that the filling lacked a little in flavour, however the sauce, which I felt might have been overpowering, was not in the least and complemented the pasta well. I did enjoy the addition of the baby spinach and thought the dish was delicious and very nice to eat. It was a great sized portion for lunch, but if you had a bigger appetite you might have wanted to add a salad, or had a starter.
My wife had gone for the Bianca Pizza which had on it goat’s cheese, grilled courgettes, baby sunblushed tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato. She had taken the light option (which increased the price) that takes half the dough of the Classic pizza and the pizza is then served with a mixed salad with a low calorie Italian dressing. It looked really nice and she said it was just right.
So what of the spicy Fusilli with Italian Sausage that my son had gone for? Well it was certainly hot and spicy, but it was scrummy and he finished the entire dish. I was expecting to see slices of sausage in the dish, but it was cooked with “lumps” of sausage, almost like a bolognese consistency. It looked great and I was allowed a quick taste. It certainly was spicy, but not too spicy to be unpleasant as can sometimes happen.
The children’s meals looked great, the pizza was enjoyed as was the spaghetti bolognese. The spaghetti bolognese was a proper bolognese and again I had a quick taste and it was really really nice. It was probably something I would order if I went to Prezzo again.
So why the “well nearly” in the blog post title?
Well alas the service let us down. It started off so well to begin with. They were welcoming and friendly and our food did arrive quite promptly. However after that it all went a little downhill. I am not sure why, but I think the main reason was that there wasn’t enough staff on. It was a Tuesday lunchtime and I think they anticipated that as it wasn’t a school holiday (schools in York broke up a week later than many parts of the country) they wouldn’t have too many customers. However though when we arrived there was only a few tables occupied, by the time we had finished eating our main courses the place was full and they were turning people away. As a result the two waiting staff appeared to be rushed off their feet. For us that meant it took a while to sort out the desert (just ice cream) and get the bill. The staff though did keep smiling.
So apart from the service issues towards the end of the meal, the food was delicious, it looked great and appeared to be made fresh to order. Really nicely done and now I have found where the Bristol branch is, we might go again.