Ragu for you

This was a cute and small restaurant, and although we didn’t book, we were seated very quickly. This was our second attempt here, as the first time we queued out the door and no one was being spoken to about any tables. We waited 10 minutes before leaving, so already this second attempt at a visit was going much better.

We were on a two-person table and our table was rather close to the couples next to us. This was a bit unnerving but as the evening went on and the food came it was soon forgotten. I decided to push the boat out and have a Stella pear cidre. It was a nice cold bottle, with an ice filled glass, which kept it fresh and lasted throughout the meal. The waiter poured half a glass for me, and then took our order. It was all very efficient and quick, which was a great start and I looked forward to the food after this good reception.

To start was Mini Ciabatta Bites to share. These are a favourite when going to any Bella Italia and it definitely did not let us down this time either. The sharer plate had 14 ciabatta bites altogether, 7 each so the perfect size starter. They were superb, the garlic covering was not too strong, but there was oil in the bowl to be soaked up by the dough.

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Unfortunately the main course did not live up to this starter at all. I had the Beef and Red Wine Ravioli, which in itself was very nice. It was a nice rich flavoured sauce, but there really wasn’t much of it. I was very disappointed at the portion size, especially when I looked over and there was a bowl full of spaghetti carbona beside me, which was brimming to the top. It really made me wish I had chosen my second choice as I feel I would have had more in my pasta bowl. If I had not had a starter I would have still been hungry by the end. Yes the pasta parcels were of good size and filled nicely, but there were about 8 of the parcels, there really wasn’t enough. It also mentions in the description the beef ragu sauce, there was definitely more sauce than beef. I did not want to pay around £12 for this meal, I felt £7 would have been more acceptable.

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Sadly although this experience and meal started off really well, it actually left on a downer. Normally I am too full for pudding, but on this occasion we decided to go elsewhere for dessert, which after a pretty good sized milkshake, I was full.

Although the service was good, quick and efficient, the main course really let Bella Italia down for me, if you are after a big meal, I do not recommend this main course.

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Fresh is always Best

There is a time in everyone’s life whether student or not that a takeaway, whatever you may choose to eat, is needed. We went through Deliveroo, and had takeaway for Handmade Burger Co. I love that restaurants that you would originally have had to trek out in the cold to eat, and then trek back in the dark, you can now have very conveniently to your front door.

Normally when I have used Deliveroo they have been great, they have a similar system to Dominos Pizza letting you know when your food is being cooked, and when it is on our way. Sadly this time this seemed to lack slightly, our food was supposedly on its way but after nearly 20 minutes of it being ‘on its way’ (we were closer than 20 minutes), it was not with us. This was Deliveroo’s fault not Handmade Burger Co, and we were worried about the temperature our food would be when it arrived. Though a positive was that Deliveroo text us, informing us of the new time to expect our food.  This was annoying though and we were getting very hungry by this point.

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A bike ride for them, food to the door for you!

What is good about Deliveroo, is for students with Unidays, it is free delivery, so even cheaper! You do however have to spend over £10 altogether to qualify for Deliveroo, with many places on there that isn’t a problem, but if you’re looking for something cheaper Deliveroo isn’t for you.

If you have read another of my reviews, where I mention Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), you will know how much I rave about it being my favourite burgers. I can now confirm that has been knocked out the winner spot. Firstly is was a huge 7oz burger, made of 100% scotch beef, which was cooked to exactly right, being juicy yet not underdone. All ingredients are fresh and handmade in the restaurant! I had the Avocado and Bacon burger, which was hand crushed avocado, smoked bacon, mayonnaise, and Handmade Burger Co. burger relish. It was honestly one of the best burgers I have ever had, so although it took it’s time coming to us, and it was £9.45, it was worth the wait and every bit of that price.

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An over flowing, full to the brim burger!

Accompanying our burgers we also got Denver chips, which are chips topped with marinated pulled pork, melted cheese and BBQ pit sauce. These really got the taste buds flowing, the BBQ sauce had a bit of a tang and it was by no mean lacking over the chips. We also had sweet potato fries, unfortunately these did not match up to the GBK standard, they were slightly cold, which is not the restaurants fault, but they were also not as crispy they seemed a bit limp. So although tasty, they were not my favourite thing about the meal.

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Sweet Potato fired on the left, Denver chips on the right.

It’s very obvious to expect the food to be warm rather than hot when you order from online, and most places are pretty good, it is a definite indicator and positive reason to actual go to a restaurant. But as my first Handmade Burger Co. experience, the burger was not cold, and it was a great first impression. I would like to try this place again, but in a restaurant to experience the service and hopefully piping hot food.

Not a Soar Point

My trip to The Soar Point was a pit stop for lunch and definitely a good call. I have been here once before and thoroughly enjoyed it the first time, so when offered to go again it as a definite yes.

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The Main Entrance.

There were plenty of spaces to pick from, and there is such a nice atmosphere to sit and eat food. There are multiple tables with plug sockets which cater to workers but mainly for students, it is a great place to go to do work and have a bite to eat. There is also a large balcony area which hangs over a river, and I can imagine this being great in the summer to be outside having drinks on-looking pretty scenery.

With The Soar Point you have to go up to the bar and order, but that really isn’t a bad thing. To drink I had a Passion-Shot smoothie, which included passionfruit, pineapple and mango. This was so tasty and healthy as well, my only issue is that there wasn’t a huge amount of it. It came in a takeaway cold drink cup, and as you can see in the picture below it wasn’t filled right to the top when it arrived. I could have done with more, but then again it only cost £2.50, and compared to smoothies from coffee chains, it was good value for money.

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Refreshing and tasty!

Being in the middle of the day, it was rather quiet which was great for us as our food was at our table in no time. I went for mac ‘n’ cheese, with BBQ pulled pork. Now again if you know me, I love cheese, I love pasta, and I love pulled pork so best combination ever. It was also a pretty great meal. There was plenty there to eat and I was definitely struggling by the end to finish it, but because it was so good I was determined to finish. I do have to say there is a large amount of food on each plate. Looking around they are definitely not terrible on portion size which again makes it great value for money.

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A bucket of cheesy pasta, what more could you want?!

The downside though that was discussed at our table, was that although not ridiculously expensive, for a very student orientated place, the prices are still quite high. It would be cheaper probably to make my own mac and cheese at home. At the end of the day you’re paying for the convenience of not having to cook, plus a nice comfortable atmosphere, as well as quality. Some restaurants just know how to make your own food taste rubbish in comparison.

For a student it is a nice treat to eat out during the week, but if you wanted to work there most days, you would have to find food elsewhere, otherwise before you know it, you’ll have no money left in the student bank!

Easy Peasy Zizzi

This meal was a bit of a strange one. This was a family and friends occasion before going to watch ice hockey, and I’m going to state the obvious it is freezing watching ice hockey so you have got to warm the belly with food.

Now firstly, if you have read my other reviews you know I am a sucker for a good lime and soda. This ‘lime and soda’ I was presented with was not a great start to the meal. There was no lime and might as well have been no soda, it was flat soda, which was like funny tasting water. I was not impressed by this, I enjoyed my sister’s cucumber water more than my own, and I do not like healthy tasting drinks like that one!

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It even looked like water, no lime colour to watch the no lime flavour.

With this bad start I was not feeling optimistic,but I have to say the starter of Cheesy Smoked Pesto Garlic Bread was by no doubt the best part of the entire meal. It is a great sharer, so packed with flavor, not oily at all, which surprised me with the amount of pesto and mozzarella. So this definitely saved the lime and soda and brought Zizzi’s back into the game.

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The game changer.

Unfortunately the main then let me down again. Although a nice meal and a good portion size, I was left disappointed by the Chicken and Prosciutto Salad. This salad included, chicken, prosciutto, avocado, red onions, tomato’s, croutons, mixed leaves, with a aioli dressing. Starting from one of the main ingredients the prosciutto, being in the name you would presume it to be a main feature of the dish. I was sad to see only on streak of prosciutto which didn’t last through the whole salad. Next the avocado was hard, I love avocado and was one of the reasons why I chose this meal, so it was not great to have hard avocado but also not a great deal of it. I also love aioli, and yes although the salad was dressed with it, it was not a very apparent flavour. I would not have recognised it as aioli, or at least the version of it I know and love, so more of this dressing would have made the salad nicer.

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Looked great, but lacked the wow a salad should have.

The service was also rather slow for a quiet restaurant. We went at 4pm so not rush hour at a restaurant, and there was approximately 4 tables in throughout our meal with people coming and leaving. I overheard one of the staff members conversation about how busy it was in the restaurant. I had to turn around and look if there was a part of the restaurant I was missing. It was by no means busy.

The longest time was between the mains and pudding, but the pudding was worth the wait. A Chocolate and Banana Calzone, with mascarpone cream and vanilla gelato. Oh my did it make the taste buds flow. It was the perfect size for one, and it was delicious, I could not fault this pudding. The inside of the calzone was full to the brim no slim picking for us and was definitely worth the money.

Overall my time in Zizzi was rather frustrating. I had high hopes, especially as I have not been to one in many years. The waiting around and the main course did let me down, which for me brought the whole experience down. I would like to go to another Zizzi’s to see what the food would be like, so I can say I have not been fully put off. The next time i will try a pizza or a pasta dish and hopefully have a nicer experience.

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The colourful plate, and then the amazing coffee ‘mug’, did end the meal on a high.

 

TGI Friday on Saturday

I will happily admit I do love TGI Fridays! It’s a place that I don’t go too often, there isn’t one in my home town unfortunately, plus it is pricey on a student budget. But acceptations are made on a shopping trip day, you have got to treat yourself to a nice fulfilling lunch when you’ve got hours of exhausting but great shopping to do.

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Cajun Cream Pasta with Cajun Chicken

Going into this TGI’s was slightly strange as it was rather quiet for a 12:30pm lunch hour. They were most certainly over staffed, which is a first, there were many waiters and waitresses just milling around waiting for something to do, or chatting to one another. though it being quiet worked very well to our advantage as we were well attended to and our food was very quick to come out. This compared to my last visit where I waited what felt like years between courses, was a pleasant and scrumptious surprise.

To start were shared nachos, and anyone that knows me, knows I love nachos. These nachos were not a disappointment. Each layer of nacho chips was covered in cheese, and I love the sour cream they give in restaurants, you know the proper stuff, rather than the jars. We had a single portion between the two of us, and that was perfectly enough especially with the large mains coming our way. We are by no means small eaters but anymore and it might as well have been our main dinner, and a doggy bag for the actual main course! Now I am actually very ashamed to admit, that although I have been eating nachos for a very long time, it had only just come to my attention that nacho chips are tortilla wraps…I know shocking, but this was honestly a revelation and I don’t think I will look at nachos the same way again!

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How cheesy are these nachos!

Onto mains and I went for the Jack Daniels Chicken Sandwich. This included grilled chicken breast with the Jack Daniels glaze, Monterey Jack cheese and Jack Daniels candied bacon, in a brioche bun. That is a lot of Jack Daniels in one sentence. When at TGI’s I normally got for the fajitas mainly because I love their blackened chicken, but this time I decided to go for something different and it was honestly a great choice.

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The food wasn’t overloaded by the Jack Daniels, and there was an amazing Jack Daniels dipping sauce, which went with the sweet potato fries perfectly. It reminded me of marmite but that was personal taste, apparently, it did not taste of this at all, but food always taste differently to different people.

This was a good place to go and eat and if anyone was in a rush then it would have been great for them as everything came quickly to our table, we were in and out in around an hour. I could not finish my food I was so full, good food that fills you up is always a huge plus in my books.

 

Penne for your Thoughts

Frankie and Benny’s is a very well-known Italian family favourite, which I will admit is my go to place to eat out. I’ve been so many times whether it be for a family meal, an exam results day breakfast, date night, or for a splendid three course meal with cocktails. I am very surprised my local Frankie and Benny’s do not recognize my face by now.

Being a student too it is a very well-priced place to go and eat and the portions are by no means small, so even better value for money. This is especially essential to us students where value for money is everything. They do however offer a good discount for students, so that is one to bear in mind!

On this adventure to Frankie and Benny’s is wasn’t a three course meal, just a one course main meal with drinks. What I love about the one in my home town is that they are very friendly, and many of the staff have been there for years so they know the running’s of the place like the back of their hand. Our drinks were taken quickly and they didn’t rush us with choosing our main course and pestering us to order which I like. I have found they can do that when it is busy in there, but I guess that is to do with the turnaround time for tables.

For my main: Chicken and Prawn Alfredo, this included penne pasta, chicken, mushrooms, prawns, in what they described as a creamy cheese sauce with rocket. My issue with this dish is that it is described as having a cheese sauce, which if you have a look at the images below is how they describe the carbonara.

Although this was a lovely and huge dish which I devoured, it was not a cheese sauce. I have had the carbonara and that is a cheese sauce which you would expect to have, mine however was not as thick, or cheesy. I know it was a slightly different colour to do with the Cajun seasoning, but if you’re expecting a carbonara type sauce with this, I can confirm it is not what you would expect.

However, it was very delicious anyway, and the sauce was very nice, it was just something I had never tried before, and if it tells me creamy cheese sauce that is what I am expecting.

Another criticism has to be the amount of meat in my meal, don’t get me wrong I was not rationed but I felt there could be more. There were only four prawns in my meal and there was a lot of pasta to go through, there was more chicken, but then again not enough to compliment the pasta. As well with the chicken, they were very small pieces too which meant there wasn’t a large taste with the pasta either. I definitely found with the meals at the table that there was a much higher quantity of the low value food items such as, mushrooms and streaky bacon, whereas chicken, prawns and meatballs were of a much lower quantity.

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Even with the criticisms, we were scraping our plates.

Overall we were in and out of Frankie and Benny’s in an hour, so the service I could definitely not complain about. We were well attended to and overall the food was very good and one course filled us right up. I’ve just got to keep an eye on that menu!

A Posh Pub

If you’re going out to celebrate then The Akeman in Tring is the place to go. Now this isn’t to be confused with The Akeman Inn in Kingswood. If you are a local to the area you will understand this confusion and the need to clarify which place you are in fact going.

I came to this place for a 21st birthday celebration, and if you don’t mind paying a little extra then it is definitely worth going to have some food. The Akeman is classed as a posh British pub, but I would class it as more of a bar/restaurant, with a sophisticated spin on the typical pub grub. I am not sure how busy it is throughout the day, but I have only been twice and both evenings being surrounding the weekend were pretty busy, so you would need to book.

Being Christmas The Akeman was filled with decorations and there were Christmas crackers on the table for us to enjoy, and it was even better that they were crackers with the more useful things in, such as a pack of playing cards, and a luggage tag. This is in comparison to the plastic whistle you can get, but at the same time it is Christmas and I don’t care what is in a cracker, it is just something I enjoy.

As I was driving which I seem to be doing a lot of when I go and eat, I had the usual lime and soda to drink, and as you will read from my last post from Bella Vita, the lime and soda must be right! I can confirm it was a good ratio!

For my starters, I had the Burrata Mozzarella Bruschetta, and being very typically English I find it hard to pronounce the more uncommon food words. For example, when you go to an Italian restaurant and there are the Italian words on the menu so you just do the whole point and say a word you can half recognise. I feel like I might offend the person serving me if I get the name wrong, especially when the waiter or waitress is from the country of food you are getting.  I did this for the Bruschetta, and Bruschetta was the word of choice, point and ‘can I have the bruschetta please.’

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It was like someone had just emptied a mozzarella ball packet onto my sourdough!

When it arrived, the mozzarella was huge and tasted very fresh and light and it could have been as big as me. I originally thought I would run out of the sourdough before I got through the garlic and basil marinated tomatoes and mozzarella, but I was very wrong and finished it all together rather than running out of one thing.

We didn’t have to wait long after the starters before the main course arrived, and oh my! I went for the House Burger, which was a British steak burger, mature cheddar, smoked bacon, dill pickle, gem lettuce, red onion, tomato, ketchup & mustard mayonnaise. I had mine without the mustard mayonnaise, I cannot stand mustard for the life of me, even if it is the faintest taste, I can taste it. I also upgraded the chips to sweet potato fries for an extra £1. Sweet potato fries are my favourite, if there is an option for them I shall have them.

This burger was huge, and I struggled to eat all of it, especially as I had had bread as a starter too. As I said earlier if you are willing to pay that little bit extra then the food will not let you down, it is worth the money. I make it sound like it is rather expensive, my starter was £8 and the burger was £13, and for a good burger, that is very reasonably priced.

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Sweet potato fries and a huge beef burger, what more does one need.

The criticism with The Akeman is firstly the noise levels, I know when it is busy it cannot be helped, but I came out with a bit of a buzz in my head, and I really had to concentrate on what people were saying when having a chat. Even with the person next to me we had to speak up a bit or lean over. I also found that the waiter and waitress we had, although pleasant, did not say much to us, and didn’t smile very often. I was unsure whether the waitress had heard my order as she didn’t seem to acknowledge me speaking and then just looked at the person next to me expectantly.

Saying that they were attentive so if we needed any more drinks, and they did thank us for coming, and finally gave us a smile as we left, but it just would have been nice to have a more friendly reception and atmosphere from them.

The place itself is very modern, you can see where they cook your food, and it is very warm and you do feel comfortable when sitting there. There is a bar and drinking area at the front and the dining area is towards the back. It is the type of place you can just go for a couple of nice drinks with friends, or your Christmas get together and have a good time.