Restaurant Review: Dinner at Zizzi Market Harborough

Italian restaurants are, surprisingly, some of my favourite. I say surprisingly because I’m actually severely allergic to a key Italian ingredient. Trust me, a tomato allergy is very limiting. However despite this being a key ingredient, it is easy to avoid in Italian cooking. Either dishes have tomatoes or they don’t. None of this ambiguity you find in other types of cooking (the amount of British stews and pies containing tomato puree really annoys me!).

Out of Italian chain restaurants, both ASK and Zizzi are close to being my favourite. ASK has the slight edge in that they don’t practise excessive use of herbs. Pizza Express doesn’t even come close. Anyway, I visited Zizzi in Market Harborough last Thursday for my sister’s birthday;

 

To start, we shared a ‘large’ portion of calamari, and some garlic bread.

I love love love calamari. The best I’ve ever had is either the baby squid at ASK (although seeing them whole is a little off-putting) or the spicy squid at Jamie’s Italian in Brighton. Zizzi’s was also very very good; served so piping hot it burnt, very very crispy, and with a creamy dip that had a good lemony kick.

The garlic bread at Zizzi is also very good, soft, buttery, and garlicky without that dreadful aftertaste.

 

For mains, I chose the Penne della Casa. Other mains on the table were Rigatoni con Pollo e Funghi, Sofia Rustica Pizza, Zizzi Fish Stew, and the Pork Belly.

My main was delicious, although not without faults. The chicken was beautifully soft and flavoursome, the spinach perfectly cooked, the cheese wonderfully goeey and stringy. The sauce was very nice, although far too thin. The biggest let down was the bacon; it was extremely fatty, and didn’t taste of anything. It was also a very off-putting highlighter pink colour.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t try the other pasta dish, the pizza or the fish stew. The other pasta dish was apparently let down by the extreme use of rosemary. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the other dishes, they were both wolfed down by the male members of our party.

The Pork Belly was the source of my food envy. Described as “crisp slow-roast belly of pork on spring greens sautéed in garlic butter” it was a huge piece of meat, served on top of a massive portion of green vegetables. No starchy-carby sides were provided, although they were not needed. The pork was seasoned beautifully, and cooked to absolute perfection. It was falling apart, yet still tender, succulent, and had wonderfully chewy and crispy edges. The greens still had a good bite to them, and were lovely and garlicky. This is definitely the dish I will order next time!

 

We didn’t order desert, and instead ate birthday cake. However due to a big delay in our mains arriving (there were multiple Christmas parties taking place) we were given a free bottle of Prosecco which went down very nicely.

The food was a little over-seasoned, but the staff wonderfully. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

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Restaurant Review: Wined and Dined at ABode Canterbury

Now, this post is going to be slightly odd seeing as it’s on a student blog. Decent food (and I mean amazingly good food!) is wayyyy out of my budget, but for my birthday my lovely boyfriend treated me to an rather posh meal at quite an exclusive restaurant; certainly one of the best I’ve eaten in.

Before I start gushing about the food, a little complaint about my age. Nineteen sounds so old! I’m 20 next year, and in just 13 days I’ll have to say “I’m 21 next year” if asked that question. Just as long as, with the help of Loreal, my hair remains blonde, I’m happy.

Right, food.

I was lucky enough to be taken to ABode in Canterbury, a Michelin accredited restaurant in the city centre run by Michael Caines (the chef, not the actor). It is definitely up there with some of the best meals I have eaten; only one other strikes me as being memorable throughout my lifetime. Unfortunately due to restaurant rules I was unable to take photographs of the food, so I’ll just do my best to describe it.

We were warmly, if rather oddly welcomed. It was assumed when we arrived that we weren’t diners, despite our smart dress. I guess they don’t see many of their clientele being students! There was also a confusion with the booking, and as a result the menu we requested was unavailable.

We were seated quickly, and presented with a basket of fresh bread and butter. There were three types of bread; a white with sea salt; a brown with honey; and a sun-dried tomato. I tried the white and the brown, being unable to try the third (although apparently it was good). As this was the first bread I’d had in a good couple of months, I wasn’t in a fit state to take any of it in. It was very, very nice bread.. We made our food choice over the bread, choosing from the set lunch menu.

For me, my starter was probably the highlight of my meal, despite the eyelash it came adorned with. It was a pan-fried fillet of mackerel, served with potato salad and salsa verde. The mackerel was fried to perfection, beautiful crispy skin (no soggy bits at all!) beautifully flavoured, wonderfully salty and almost sweet flesh, and nearly all of the bones removed. I was cautious about the potato salad, but this was nothing like the pot you buy in Waitrose in the summer. This was a three tier tower of tiny diced potatoes, very al dente, with pickled vegetables. I enjoyed the pickled ‘something’ – a flat and very thin disk, which was crispy and well flavoured. I enjoyed the onions, and even the tiny mini-florets of pickled cauliflower. But despite my enjoyment of radishes in other dishes, I really disliked these. Maybe that was me. The entire dish was perfectly balanced, and I really enjoyed it.

My boyfriend’s starter was also very well received. He ordered cauliflower soup nervously; neither of us enjoys that particular vegetable. He was even more nervous when presented with a bowl of, admittedly quite nice looking, cauliflower florets. No soup to be seen. Disaster was averted when it was poured in via a jug at the table. This soup was some of the best soup I’ve eaten. I actually enjoy the taste of cauliflower, it’s the texture that spooks me. Soup is clearly the remedy for that, and I may consider buying it and making some soup next term. The cauliflower ‘croutons’ aside, I’d have happily eaten this.

 

The mains came perhaps a little too swiftly after the starters. But again, I’m being demanding and picky.

My boyfriend fell in love with his dish; pork fillet, with various vegetables, apple sauce, and some kind of jus. It certainly looked pretty, but I personally wasn’t a fan. However, I really dislike fruit in my main course; cranberry sauce with my turkey (and I don’t eat turkey more often that every five or so years) is my limit. For me, this dish was too sweet, but everyone else I witnessed eating it seemed to think differently to me.

My dish was very very close to the standard of my starter, and I really enjoyed it. I had ordered Wild Mushroom Risotto, with a Nutmeg and Parmesan Foam. The risotto was perfectly seasoned, both creamy and light, and the rice was cooked nicely. I would have perhaps liked more mushrooms, or perhaps more mushroom flavour, but I make my own risotto very strongly flavoured, so this is more personal taste. I had always thoughts foams a bit pointless; surely its just a bit air-like, and surely it would get cold quickly. I was wrong. This added a perfect strong flavour, and sort of melted into the risotto, making it even more creamy and luxurious. I would definitely order this dish again! However, one thing let it down; the garnish of cress felt like something a pub-restaurant would add, and for me its bitter flavour spoilt what was otherwise my dream dish.

 

We were left alone for a considerable time before ordering desert, for which I was grateful. We ordered two deserts, with an agreement to halve each. The first was a lemon tart, with raspberry coulis, lemon peel and various other adornments. For me this was a little cloying, but I had fallen in love with our other desert. The second was a white chocolate mousse on hazelnut biscuit with more raspberry coulis. I found this more delicately flavoured, with enough texture to keep it interesting.

 

Having read though my post, it actually doesn’t sound like I am praising the restaurant much – which is not the impression I want to give! In fact, it was by far ahead of many meals I have previously eaten, and definitely on my list to visit again. It was an amazing birthday treat for which I am extremely thankful, and I enjoyed the food immensely. Cress and eyelash aside. And hopefully, I’ll be taken back there again, or to other amazing restaurants (hint hint!)

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