Don’t overcook the squid!

A recent birthday treat was to go to the new Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare. As it was lunchtime, I went for the lunchtime menu special, which seemed reasonable value. For my starter I went with the Bruschetta, a homemade mix of fresh tomato, red onion, basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper served over toasted garlic ciabatta bread, finished with a balsamic glaze. I was not that impressed with this, I found the red onion very harsh and astringent. Normally red onion can be very sweet when raw, however I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would.

The Calamari Caesar Salad came next, which consisted of (according to the menu) lightly fried and seasoned calamari, crispy Cos lettuce leaves, white anchovy, tomato and fresh garlic ciabatta croutons drizzled with our Caesar dressing, topped with Grana Padano and served with a wedge of lemon.

Calamari Caesar Salad

I would probably take exception to the phrase “lightly fried” as the squid had been overcooked to the point where the calamari was crunchy on the outside and quite rubbery on the inside. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I do think that Frankie and Benny’s could do a much better job of cooking the squid. It’s not difficult to cook squid well, however I think that the squid at Frankie and Benny’s is double cooked, it is cooked already and then cooked again when it is ordered. I of course don’t know that for sure. The chef has used the larger outside leaves of the Cos lettuce for the dish, which meant they were more limp than crispy. Overall I did enjoy the salad and it was a good sized portion and value for money.

Very nice indeed…

I have a kind of love hate relationship with Café Rouge. I really like the concept behind Café Rouge and like the menu, but then I am let down either by poor service or over seasoning.

However on my latest visit with the family, we had excellent service, great food and it was all, very nice indeed…

It was, how it should be, how I expect it to be, and what I want when I go out and pay for lunch.

My son, avoiding the children’s menu, he went for the Tartine Marocaine, an open sandwich of sautéed spicy Merguez sausages & caramelised onions with houmous and crisp chicory on grilled sourdough bread served with a minted crème fraîche.

Tartine Marocaine

I am a great fan of Merguez sausages and these, though slightly overdone for me, were very nice, and my son really enjoyed the dish. I was quite surprised how much he enjoyed the onions, the crisp chicory (which is quite bitter) and the salad. He wasn’t that impressed with the minted crème fraîche, but once he worked out that it helped cool the spiciness of the Merguez sausage he understood how it fitted into the dish. I have had this dish myself before and enjoyed it back then.

My wife went with the Salade de Chèvre, grilled goat’s cheese croutons on a bed of marinated red peppers, black olives and herb salad with a light vinaigrette.

Salade de Chèvre

She let me try the salad and I liked the freshness of the salad leaves with the marinated red peppers and black olives. The goat’s cheese had a subtle flavour, but was nice.

I went with the Tartine au Maquereau, an open sandwich of pan-fried mackerel fillets, baby plum tomatoes, horseradish mayonnaise and rocket on grilled sourdough bread.

Tartine au Maquereau

I really enjoyed this dish, the mackerel was cooked really well and the tomatoes, rocket and horseradish mayonnaise complemented the fish. The dish was full of flavour and was delicious.

My two younger ones had meals from the children’s menu, they enjoyed their food, but the fries came with salt on them… personally I think they should come without salt, especially on the children’s dishes.

So what about the service? Despite the fact it was a busy Sunday, we got a table as soon as we walked in, and the waitress was friendly and efficient. The food came within a reasonable time frame and we weren’t rushed or anything. As a result it was a very relaxing and enjoyable meal out.

Very nice indeed…

Spicy Salad

I know that some people get bored with plain lettuce, but it doesn’t take much to take that plain lettuce and jazz it up!

For this salad, I took some mixed leaves and added slices of tomato and cucumber. I do like to use “proper” tomatoes, you know the ones that actually taste of tomato.

To jazz it up, I added some mini chilli salami (no not pepparami, but a posh version) and some Spanish manzanilla and couchillo olives.

I didn’t add a dressing, as there is plenty of flavour in the olives, the oil from the olives and the spicy salami. However if you are that way inclined I would make a simple dressing of good olive oil and some white wine vinegar.

Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto Salad with Rocket & Pine Nuts

Fancying a salad for lunch I found this Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto Salad with Rocket & Pine Nuts in Sainsbury’s.

Pesto Pasta with Mozzarella and Tomato

It was quite nice. The pesto wasn’t overpowering, there was enough to cover the pasta and there were ample pine nuts too. The pasta was the right texture, the sunblush tomatoes were nice and the mozzarella was fine.

Overall it was a nice packaged salad and certainly much nicer than a sandwich.

Salad Bar

Pizza Hut Salad

On a recent visit to Pizza Hut I was once more disappointed with the salad bar. Credit to Pizza Hut in that they are currently giving away unlimited salad if you order a main course, so maybe I am been slightly disingenuous as the salads are free.

Yes there was lettuce, but it was iceberg lettuce. Yes there was cucumber, but it was thick chunks rather than slices. No tomatoes though… The coleslaw was okay, however the potato salad lacked texture and bite.

I think part of my disappointment is the result of a memory from the early 1990s when I visited a branch of the Deep Pan Pizza company and on their salad bar they had chicken wings, fresh pineapple slices and a fantastic range of salads.

Of course as Deep Pan Pizza closed in 1998 there is no chance of visiting them again!

Simple Pesto Pasta Salad

I do quite like pasta based salads which are basically can be best described as cold pasta! Though there is a little more work required than just letting cooked pasta going cold…

For this salad I cooked some fusilli pasta twists and after they had cooked, I immersed them in cold water. Iced cold water would be better, but I had no ice, so just plain cold water would do. This is for two reasons, firstly to make the pasta cold, ready for the salad, secondly to stop the cooking process. If you just cooked the pasta an let it go cold, it would go all soggy as it continued to cook after you drained it. So even if you intend to eat your pasta salad later, still plunge it into cold water to stop the cooking process. Just as an aside this is often how restaurants “cook” pasta. They cook the pasta until just about done, before plunging the pasta into ice cold water. They can then finish the cooking of the pasta when needed and it will only take a minute to finish the pasta before adding a sauce.

So with the cooked pasta I added a couple of spoonfuls of basil pesto and some chicken.

Mixed and served.

You could add some fresh basil leaves to up the basil flavour. Another option would be to add some cooked spinach.

A Simple Salad


I made myself a simple salad, it consisted of some coleslaw. Now in the past I have made my own coleslaw and much prefer it. However this time it was from the shop!

I used some lettuce leaves with green beans, which I dressed with some olive oil and white wine vinegar. To finish off some Jersey Royal new potatoes with a spoonful of mayonnaise.

Simple and delicious.

So you went again…

As my last experience wasn’t too bad, when I needed to get a meal recently I did try Café Rouge one more time.

After my last meal, back then I said:

So despite my reservations I in the end had a good meal, good service and may go again.

One of my main issue (and it would appear I am not alone in this) with Café Rouge is not necessarily with the food, but with the service.

I have had issues with the food so still not entirely confident with the chain.

However there is something I really like about the concept behind Café Rouge, the idea of a French bistro is very appealing and the menu always sounds nice.

So having had a reasonably positive experience last time I felt quite positive about this visit. I did go safe though and I went with the steak I had last time, the Bavette. I did as the menu recommended ordered the steak rare. The Bavette is a flank steak so if cooked medium or well done it will be a tougher than say a sirloin cooked to medium.

So what of the result?

Well it was very nice and the fries were good too. I don’t think it was as good as before, but was still tasty and full of flavour.

Alongside I had a side salad, that was much more than just lettuce. In there was red onion, olives and green beans.

To wash it down, I had a glass of Cotes du Rhone, full bodied and full of fruity flavours.

So what of the service?

Well I think I was lucky in that I went in quite late and the place was quite empty, only three tables with diners. They were also at the end of their meals, whereas mine had just begun. So the waiting staff were basically waiting on me!

Overall, not a too bad an experience, good food and good service; in other words what it should be every time I go to Café Rouge and should be the rule not the exception.

Crayfish & Salmon Salad

The other week I was lucky enough to have dinner at the Mustard Seed Restaurant in Inverness.

For my starter I had what the menu described as the Crayfish tail, smoked salmon and vegetable egg noodle salad with an oriental dressing and roasted sesame seeds.

Now though I think the sesame seeds were missing, it was an interesting combination of oriental and Scottish, the noodles with smoked salmon. The salmon was great, the crayfish tails were okay though the noodle salad was somewhat bland, even with the oriental dressing.

Overall it was nice starter, refreshing and some nice ingredients, but I think it could have been better, though I don’t think that the missing sesame seeds would have been the solution.

Salad for Lunch


I know that a lot of people have salad for lunch as they perceive it to be a healthy option. I generally have salad for lunch as I enjoy eating a nice salad. It’s nice at work that we have salad bars that I can get one from. Sometimes I get one from the local supermarket. Some of the best salads I have had are from small deli type places who make them fresh to order. They’re generally my first choice.

I do like variety in my salad, however I generally draw the line at dried fruit or celery.

From a health perspective a salad such as the one pictured above has a fair bit of fat and salt in it. You can of course avoid all the mayonnaise, dressings and salty stuff and have a much healthier salad, but where’s the fun in that then?