Went shopping at the weekend in Weston-super-Mare, which to be honest, is now quite a depressing experience with all the shops that have closed down, and many of these closed down even before the covid-19 lockdown.
We went into the Sovereign Centre to go to Waterstones, this is a shopping centre that has a food hall with no food places from which you can buy food! They converted the Druckers Café into this food hall, no one took up the other kiosks or stands, Druckers closed and so we were left with a food hall where you can’t buy food! Well not entirely accurate, there is a Parsons’ pasty shop in the centre, but you’re not allowed to eat in the food hall as it has been roped off!
So as we walked outside the Sovereign Centre it was a nice surprise to bump into the Weston-super-Mare food fair.
We looked around the stalls, in the end we bought some gluten free scotch eggs, which were very nice. As with the recent Portishead food fair I was slightly disappointed with the stalls, but even so it was nice to see such a busy market in Weston.
The fact that when taking a photograph for this blog post, all the main signage had been removed, says to me, it will not be opening again.
It should be said that the company behind Frankie and Benny’s was in trouble before the pandemic closed restaurants and was looking at closing branches across the country. I wasn’t too surprised, they changed their menu and branding to more of an American style, and though they were Italian-American, I think they started to lose some of their appeal by losing the Italian aspects of their brand.
I don’t recall my last visit there, I know we had a Christmas breakfast there in 2017 and I had a birthday meal there in 2015, but I don’t think I have been there more recently than that.
Initially we stopped going there as their gluten free offering was quite poor, but they did change that a few years ago I believe, so we went a few times in 2017. I think another reason was that too often we were disappointed with the food and service. Also with Prezzo and Pizza Express opening in Dolphin Square there was more choice about where to go out to eat. Though, what with Pizza Express closing and now the probable closure of Frankie and Benny’s means now we have less choice.
So now waiting for confirmation of closure.
Update 27th August 2020: Updated the article with a photograph and text relating to the removal of the external signage.
The chain, which at the moment has 454 outlets across the UK, said it had cut a deal to reduce rent costs. It blamed the loss of income doe to Covid-19 and that these restaurants were no longer sustainable.
Though other restaurants opened in July, it was noticeable that Pizza Express didn’t and even with the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme starting on the 1st August, I noticed that many Pizza Express branches weren’t opening until the 13th August or later, losing the opportunity to get some additional sales in with the scheme. It was noticeable in Weston that all the restaurants in Dolphin Square are still closed despite the scheme.
Pizza Express was the third restaurant to open in Dolphin Square in November 2017, after Luda the bingo cafe and Nando’s. We’ve already lost Luda and T-Bone, and not all the spaces have been filled anyhow. Obviously the pandemic isn’t helping with the situation, but Nandos and Prezzo are still closed despite the Eat Out scheme being in operation. Loco Mexicano appears to be moving to the seafront, will they have two branches open in Weston, that appears to be unlikely as they are literally just metres apart!
I do think the Dolphin Square development will struggle in the future and I am not sure there is anything the council can do about it as well. It looks like
As for that branch of Pizza Express in Weston, I think I may have eaten their just twice. Once for a quick lunch (with a special offer from Three) and once for a family meal.
Given the choice we usually opted for the Prezzo as it had more choices on the menu and not just pizza. Having said that we’ve eaten at a fair few Pizza Expres
Arriving at Weston-super-Mare railway station for my train to Manchester I had some time for a quick coffee.
I usually catch my trains from Worle station, I am still astounded that for what is a relatively small town, Weston-super-Mare has three railway stations. The main station at Weston-super-Mare which is on a loop from the main line. This opened in 1841.
There is a halt further down that loop called Weston Milton. This station opened in 1933
Despite having two stations, a third station, Worle Station was opened in 1990.This was the fourth station to serve Worle, the previous station to serve Worle closed in 1964.
What is nice is that the mainline trains to London from the West start their route as commuter trains from Taunton or Weston to Bristol and stop at these smaller stations. In the olden days (okay a few years ago) when the London trains were HSTs, the trains were too long for Worle platform so only four coaches would be able to open their doors, the same happens today with the new nine coach Inter-City Express Trains (IETs).
Anyhow I was at Weston-super-Mare as I was catching a CrossCountry service to Manchester and this train calls at Weston-super-Mare and then calls at Bristol Temple Meads, so it doesn’t call at Worle.
At Weston-super-Mare station there are two cafes. One which has been there for a while is a typical old school station cafe and I have never really been enamoured with the refreshments available from there, I have had the odd cup of tea, but usually I just avoid it. The other new cafe is much more my cup of tea… though I usually drink coffee. Actually to call it new, just shows I am getting old, as it had been there quite a few years now. I can’t quite remember when it opened, but I have had some nice coffee from there, and it’s also a nice place to sit and wait for the train. I think it has changed hands a few times as well between when it opened and now.
So this morning having about fifteen minutes before my train I decided to pop in and have a quick coffee. They have stools, sofas and chairs. The decor is rather quirky with old trunks serving as tables and lots of old wood. The walls (which I remember once they had artwork on the walls) are covered in coffee names and slogans.
I chose a simple single espresso. What is nice is that when drinking in, they serve their coffee in a proper china cup. This was great coffee, strong, intense and delicious. I could have had another one, but my train arrived.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back in 2010 I wrote a blog post about when I went out for coffee in Weston-super-Mare I went to Druckers, as it wasn’t just about the coffee, but about the whole coffee drinking experience.
Then there was very little choice in the town for drinking coffee, quite a few tearooms who did some nice tea, but no real coffee places.
Today the landscape is very different. There are the major chains of Costa, Coffee #1, Caffe Nero as well as a plethora of independent coffee places too. We have a much greater choice. There are now four branches of Costa in the town for example. We still don’t have a Starbucks, but as I don’t like the coffee there, I am okay with that.
Since I last wrote Druckers has shrunk considerably. The owners of the Sovereign Centre wanted to create a new eating experience, with multiple food outlets and a shared eating space. Alas the reality is that all there is, is Druckers. So what was an okay place for a coffee and cake, is now more like the inside of a fish and chip shop, but with stools and benches. Not a place for coffee.
My first choice is Coffee #1, though I prefer the coffee in Caffe Nero, the service always appears rushed and it’s popular, so not always a lot of space available.
From an independent perspective, I do like the new(ish) coffee place in the Waterstones in the Sovereign Centre.
We went to Frankie and Benny’s for lunch. I wasn’t sure what I wanted so after looking over the menu I went with the chicken pitta. It came with fries, a hunk of sweetcorn and a (small) portion of coleslaw.
The chicken was grilled and then had some barbecue sauce added.
The Summerhouse in Weston-super-Mare is probably the place I visit most often, the reasons for this are geographical, historical and habit. It is currently owned by the Marstons chain so uses a corporate menu, though they also usually have a range of specials available too.
Though the quality of the food has fluctuated over the years, however the service has always been really good, friendly and genuine. The food is typical pub grub, nothing awful, but nothing really special, just good food, cooked well, served with a smile. They also, as they are a pub, usually have a nice range of beers on tap.
A last minute decision meant that we decided to go out for Sunday lunch and after a little hesitation and decision making, we chose the Summerhouse. The decor and furniture is quite stereotypically pub like, dark wood, dark carpets, brass fittings. You know that the place is a pub, but the internal layout means that the “actual” pub bit is on the ground floor, whilst there is a nearly separate restaurant area on the first floor (and on a mezzanine).
The menu is full of typical pub menu choices, stuff that is placed on the grill, dropped into a deep fat fryer or bunged into a microwave! Not that I expect much moe than that with this kind of place. My wife went with the pie, my son chose fish and chips, I perused the menu and plumped for the Sunday lunch which was a reasonable £7.15.
As we were quite early, for a Sunday, the food arrived promptly, I had a huge plate, covered in vegetables, a portion of cauliflower cheese in its own little dish, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, a small jug of gravy and a large Yorkshire Pudding. It took me a while to find the roast beef that was on the bottom of the plate. I did initially feel that the portion of beef was a little on the small side, but when you consider the price and the large quantities of vegetables perhaps it wasn’t so small after all.
I was hoping that this was going to be fresh hand carved beef, alas I was to be disappointed, it had been sliced on an electric slicer! The beef itself was tender and had some flavour, but nothing special. Certainly a lot better than a lot of the beef, you usually find in “cheap” roast beef dinners. The vegetables were nice, the cauliflower cheese was a nice touch. According to the menu, you can have “unlimited” roasties and vegetables, however it wasn’t very clear about how you would get more veg and roasties. Having said that, and as pointed out to me by my wife, the portions you get to start with are quite large and generous, so you would need to be really hungry to actually want more veg. When you consider that a roast beef dinner at a supermarket cafe, where y queue up to order is usually in the £4.95 price bracket, I do think that the Summerhouse meal was good value for money.
We did enjoy our meal, my son polished off the fish and chips, and my wife really enjoyed her pie. The service was excellent and friendly.