We avoid chains generally – not necessarily because we are snobbish (although we are a bit) it’s just that we like to think that menus change due to seasonality, availability of fresh ingredients and less ‘on message. Damn it we like people with passion making a business on good honest food. However recently we have been invited to arguably the three main Italian chain restaurants in the UK that we would normally avoid with a barge pole, with mixed impression (surprisingly good and unsurprisingly bad) which we thought our readers may be interested in taking a look.
Firstly we were invited to go to Prezzo in Haymarket. This is mainly a pizza restaurant but does some serve salad and fish dishes but these are limited. The restaurant is pretty plain in decor – trying to be Italian but also catering for all tastes so is plain and lifeless. Here we ordered the calamari for starter and the bread and tomato foccacia. The foccacia was very doughy and lacked the vegetable filling or flavour and the calamari was incredibly greasy with a thick cheap mayonnaise dip. For main course I ordered a salmon salad – as I thought this would be healthy – and we ordered the pepperoni pizza. The pizza went down well although again very oily but the salmon salad was more like dressing with a little salad on the side. The thick sickly dressing covered the salad and the salmon was cold, dry like cardboard. Terrible. The service was ignorant and incredibly slow, to the point we had to stand up to get the attention of the staff. Not great.
Our second restaurant that we tried was ASK in Uxbridge. We were welcomed in the restaurant, which is more than we can say from Prezzo so that worked. We sat down in the soulless decor of the restaurant but at least we had a civilised waiter. We ordered the garlic bread and olives to start – this place is not great if you don’t like carbs or are intolerant. The garlic bread was generous in size but the cold garlic butter was hard and overly garlicky. For main course we ordered the chicken in its mushroom sauce and the spaghetti carbonara. Now we liked that the main course options were more extensive in size from Prezzo who did focus on pasta and pizza but the cheesy pasta was a little too thick and lacked the cheese kick. The chicken was clearly pre-prepared and a little dry but I did love the mushroom sauce that was creamy and really flavoursome.
Finally we went to Zizzi the other week. We went in with trepidation as the atmosphere again tried to please all and failed to be quirky and the eastern European waitress was rude and refused to get us a table immediately despite there being spaces (it was a Monday afternoon). But things soon changed as we saw that the menu was not just the stereotypical pasta and pizza menu but really did have some real Italian options. Outside we saw that there was a special lunch menu deal but had to ask twice to get this but once we did we like the looks of this. We both ordered the mozzarella and tomato salad which was fresh and tasty. For main course we ordered the courgette spaghetti which was a little heavy but was well spiced. I ordered the super healthy salad, which was served with goat’s cheese and butter nut squash. The salad was served with chicken – at an additional cost – and despite being a little too oily it was freshly made, which was a relief after the two above. As a result we liked it and would consider coming again, which shocked us.