Nice Pizza

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.

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.

Time for a tasty pizza (again)

It was a nice pizza

Rusty Pizza

I think it’s time for a change, not just from Zizzi, but also from pizza.

Time for some Italian food

It has been nearly ten years since I visited a branch of Carluccio’s.

I do like Italian food, but I’ve not really had the inclination to visit Carluccio’s in that time. Their menu always looks interesting, but for quick lunches it was always on the pricey side.

So staying over in London and needing somewhere close and not too expensive, finding and reading the set menu online for Carluccio’s which was a few minutes walk away, I thought, well why not. It might be nice.

This branch of Carluccio’s was very close to Spitalfield Market and inside was dark and atmospheric. There was limited lighting, complemented with candles on the tables. I felt that it spoke of mystery and intrigue, so different to brightly lit restaurants.

I had a lovely warm welcome from the waiting staff and I was allowed to choose my own table. I do like being able to choose my own table, I realise when it’s busy that may not be possible, but when the place is quiet (as it was when I got there) it’s really nice to have a choice, and not been placed somewhere because it makes life easier for the waiting staff.

As it was dark, it was challenging to read the menu, I am glad I read it online before I had gone out.

The set menu I was choosing from had four choices for each course. I went for the Antipasto Misto. This was
pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

Antipasto Misto. This was  pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

I’ve not had pane carasau before, it is a traditional flatbread from Sardinia. It is very thin and crisp. It is made by taking baked flat bread, then separating it into two sheets which are baked again. It was interesting, but I think I would have preferred some ciabatta or focaccia instead.

There was very little gorgonzola dolce, reflecting on this when writing this, I initially thought there hadn’t been any on the plate, but then remembered there was a small piece. The prosciutto and finocchiona salami were nice, and I enjoyed the caponata, but I think it would have gone better with some bread (and not the flatbread).

My main course I chose was the Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

You could certainly taste the mushrooms in this risotto dish, and the risotto rice was al dente and creamy. I thought it was slightly salty for my taste.

I had intended to go with the cheeses for a third course, this was three Italian cheeses, truffle honey, pickled walnuts and ciappe crispbread. However I was feeling somewhat full, so didn’t.

When I was presented with the bill, they had added a 12.5% service charge which was “optional”. When I have had good service I do tip, however adding the tip to the bill always strikes me as presumptive and I find it insulting. It appears to be saying we don’t trust you to leave a tip, so we are going to add a service charge to the bill to make you feel bad. I also wonder how much of that “service charge” goes to the actual staff? As I didn’t have any loose change on me, I left the charge on the bill and paid. I know waiting staff are poorly paid for what is a busy and can be stressful job (I have done it myself), so I think tipping for good service is a good thing. If I receive poor service then I don’t tip.

Overall I did enjoy the food, the service was attentive and quick. The environment was nice and did not feel crowded, nor was I rushed. Would I go again, probably.

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.

Tart and Salad

Having some time to kill in the Kelvinbridge area of Glasgow, I was looking for somewhere to have lunch.

Roots, Fruit and Vegetables

Roots, Fruit and Vegetables is a combination of cafe, deli and greengrocer. It looked very inviting and had a lot of character, maybe a little too hipster for some. The welcome was warm, friendly and open. I took my seat at a table and perused the menu.

There was a lovely choice of meals and snacks on the menu, but in the end I went with the savoury tart with salad.

Tart

This was an olive and manchego cheese tart served with some salad leaves and a choice of some delicious looking salads. I went with the orzo pasta salad with red onion and butternut squash.

In no time at all, I had in front of me a lovely generous plate of food. The tart was warm and a delicious combination of smooth cheese, crusty pastry and salty olives. The orzo salad was seasoned perfectly and the so called leaves included peppers and tomatoes and a little drizzle of dressing.

Overall a delicious meal and a perfect lunch.

Olive Focaccia

Olive Focaccia

This was the first time I have made Focaccia.

Taking 500gram strong white bread flour, I added a pack of quick acting years. I then added two spoons of olive oil and 350ml of water.

This was mixed into a dough which I then kneaded for ten minutes. I placed this in an bowl, greased with olive oil, this was covered in cling film and I placed it in a warm place for forty minutes.

After letting it rise I put it into a rectangular floured tin, pushed it into a square shape, and then poked it with holes, placed some olives in the bread, some slivers of garlic and a light scatter of dried Italian herbs. I would have liked to use some fresh rosemary, chopped, however I didn’t have any. If you want extra saltiness (or don’t use the olives) you can add some sea salt.

The bread was then left to prove for another thirty minutes. After that I brushed it with some olive oil and it was then baked in a hot oven 220ºC for twenty minutes or until browned.

Serve and tear apart on the table.

Not such a long queue today

Oxford covered market | 2


Within the Oxford Covered Market are many places to grab lunch, either to eat there, or to take back to the office.

The Alpha Bar is one of the most popular establishments, so much so, that the long queues usually put me off from buying lunch from there. Another problem with their popularity is that they often run out of their popular dishes. As a result I don’t go there as often as I probably would like to.

Today the queue was short, so I managed to grab a nice salad. There is plenty of choice, and you can choose small or large. Take a main, such as chicken, feta, tofu or as I chose, grilled halloumi. You then choose a couple of sides, I went with the orzo and pesto, with the cous cous. There are a range of toppings, including pesto, hummus or as I chose, some olives. The halloumi was freshly grilled, which was good, the rest of the salad was tasty and fresh and I thought good value at £3.95.

In addition there are a range of hot choices, such as Tuscan Beef served with potatoes or rice.

As well as food, there are a range of drinks available, and surprising for me I’ve not tried the coffee.

The Alpha Bar does have a few tables outside, but this is generally a place to buy lunch to take away. It does some great food and it is really good value for money. The only real downside for me, is that it is that good, that there are often long queues, so I am often forced to miss them out.

Image via Howard Stanbury on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Bruschetta

Bruschetta #photo365

I haven’t made bruschetta for a while now, but recently put together a batch for an Italian style meal we were having.

I usually use a ciabatta loaf or rolls, slice them, butter them and then drizzle with olive oil.

For toppings I use a variety, they include:

  • garlic and herbs
  • chopped tomato and red onion
  • fresh tomato and fresh basil
  • tomatoes and olives
  • milano salami
  • mozarella (some with fresh basil)

These are baked in a hot oven and served immediately.

Baking the Bread

Homemade Bread

Over the last few months I have got into a habit of making and baking my own bread.

I don’t use a bread maker, all done by hand, but sometimes I will use a bread mix. The key I find is, both good kneading and letting the dough rise.

I use to think that making bread was too much effort, but as with any cooking technique, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Yes I make mistakes, but generally the bread making process is quick and the results very tasty.

My personal preference is for more rustic breads, sometimes with seeds or wheat flakes. However I also quite like making ciabatta style bread, including dough sticks. I have also made olive bread.

Homemade Olive Bread

I have a couple of loaf tins for baking, but these aren’t essential. In theory you can use cake tins.

So do you bake your own bread? Do you have a favourite recipe?

Aceitunas Manzanilla y Couchillo

This is from the new Tapas range from Tesco. A selection of manzanilla and couchillo olives dressed in oil and parsley.

These were very nice, certainly more flavour than the standard green and black olives you usually find in supermarkets.