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.
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.
Though my plan to celebrate my anniversary with dinner at the Second Floor Bristol, in Harvey Nichols was scuppered by my wife who decided no matter how nice the restaurant looked and how interesting the menu, she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark! Anyway the Second Floor Bristol is a really stupid name for a restaurant. Okay so it’s on the second floor, I get that. It’s in Bristol, I get that. Why though is it named after where it is? Are they so confident about the food and the location, that they don’t think it needs a proper name? Well after my wife turned down this choice of mine, I needed to choose somewhere else.
So having to make a quick decision, I decided on La Tasca. My last few visits have been okay and I do like tapas. The end result wasn’t as good as I remember and certainly I don’t think we’ll go again. It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.
As it was a Sunday they had their Foolish Feast special, so we went with that. I chose that, partly to be cost effective, but in the main it was easy. I almost laughed at the photograph on the back of the menu, which appeared to be of an authentic Spanish tapas bar and thought, now that would be wonderful, however I knew that in reality the stuff we were going to get would be nice, but it wouldn’t be genuine in the way a proper Spanish tapas bar can be. I wonder why now, why we even went in there…
As we discussed the menu, we both realised that a Greek meze place would probably have been a much better choice, but it was late, we had sat down, we had ordered coffee. A bit too late to do anything then.
The special was £14.95 per person. You start off with the Tabla Especial – to share between two Serrano ham, bread and mixed olives, served with an extra-virgin olive oil & sherry vinegar dip.
Good ham, nice olives and measly amount of bread…. really you needed a bit more bread than you got.
The Paella Valenciana ‘La Tasca’ with chicken, Galician mussels, king prawns, squid, lemon wedges, char-grilled aubergine and peppers; could have been so good, but was let down because it was reheated. As a result the rice was stodgy, the squid was chewy, as were the mussels. I can appreciate that it can’t be easy to cook paella for these kinds of menus, however either do it properly or don’t do it all! Reheating paella is not how it is done in Spain. It kinds of puts me off going to La Tasca and ordering a “proper” paella in case that is a reheated dish. The flavour was okay, but the textures let this dish down.
We ordered one of everything and waited for it to arrive.
This is one dish which really you shouldn’t get wrong, it’s a really simple dish. Patatas Bravas is deep fried potato, with spicy tomato sauce. However they did a bit of a botch job. The potato wasn’t crispy enough and some of it was well undercooked too.
I did enjoy the Albóndigas, beef & pork meatballs, in a rich, slow-cooked tomato sauce. They had good texture, nice flavour and a good sauce. Well it was a good sauce until we worked out that it tasted like the tomato sauce in tinned spaghetti hoops!
I also enjoyed the Croquetas de Pollo. These were hand-crumbed with chicken breast and served with roasted garlic mayonnaise. They were crisp on the outside and lovely and soft on the inside. They melted in the mouth and had a really nice flavour.
The Spinach Tortilla, a spinach omelette served with a spicy red pepper tapenade and roasted garlic mayonnaise was okay, but I did feel it lacked flavour.
Apart from been a little too salty, the Pescado Blanco Frito which was deep-fried white fish, in a special-recipe San Miguel batter, served with homemade paprika & roasted garlic mayonnaise and lemon. The batter was crisp and crunchy, but I did feel that the fish needed more natural flavour. You really needed to dip it in the mayonnaise.
As you might expect you couldn’t really mess up the Baby Leaf Green Salad, served with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil dressing on the side.
Overall there were some really nice dishes that we had at the table and alas there were some that really didn’t work out very well. I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again, I really do need to find a proper local Spanish tapas bar.
A quick lunch at Bella Italia was on the cards and not fancying pizza or pasta I went with a sharing platter all to myself…
Our selection of oven baked lemon & rosemary chicken wings, spiced meatballs, calamari, mini garlic filled calzoni and lightly battered courgettes served with flamed pepper and lemon herb dips.
I have talked before about platters, sometimes they consist of a bundle of stuff that was thrown into a deep fat fryer. This one from Bella Italia was more imaginative than most.
The chicken wings were, as I expected, reheated from cooked, but you could smell and taste the lemon and rosemary. The problem with reheating is that it changes the taste and texture of the chicken. Freshly cooked chicken wings are much more succulent and have more flavour and when you have had freshly cooked, you are always disappointed with the reheated versions. These, though reheated, were very nice, and it was also a nice change not have them covered in a sweet sticky sauce.
The meatballs were nice and spicy and were something I wasn’t expecting to find on the platter. They came in an earthenware tumbler and were covered in a pleasant tomato sauce.
The calamari were typical of the calamari at Bella Italia, covered in flour and deep fried. Slightly overcooked for my liking, but it was proper squid and not just rubbery rings as you find at some places. I do like calamari.
The mini garlic filled calzoni were simply small pizza bases, with garlic butter, folded and baked like a calzone pizza. Soft on the inside, but with crunchy edges, the garlic was subtle and complemented the bread.
The lightly battered courgettes, reminded me of a dish I had ordered on Kefalonia. Chunky strips of courgette, covered in a batter and deep fried. These were crispy on the outside and the courgette was lovely and tender, almost melt in the mouth on the inside. Really nice.
Overall I enjoyed my platter and would be happy to order it again.