Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Fyne Chance of improvement

 

We did it. After our awful experience in Henley-on-Thames, we reluctantly dragged ourselves back to Loch Fyne, this time in Wokingham, to see if anywhere else did it any better.

 tasty, if very small, with a thick and sticky chilli jam. The charcuterie board had a good selection of meats including peppered boar and salami, served with some fresh granary bread. Finally potted mackerel was good, though it hadn’t been left out of the fridge for long enough and therefore was a little too cold and congealed. All-round though, not bad.

Service then suddenly got horrifically slow. Customers had actually left so there was less to do but our drinks orders were frequently forgotten and our waiter would disappear for long periods of time before forgetting us altogether. After a long wait for a our mains, including time added where we had to ask for extra dishes that had been forgotten, everything eventually was on the table. The char-grilled burger was tiny in comparison to its brioche bun and the taste was not of the premium standard you might expect from Aberdeen Angus beef; it didn’t taste fresh or char-grilled. Equally, the rest of the contents, including bacon and cheese, was all a little soggy. The twice-cooked chips were much better, though had a tendency to be crispy on the outside with very little fluffy filling and just faded away in your mouth. The other main, king prawn tagliatelle Provençale, was served luke-warm instead of hot and the prawns were considerably more baby-sized than king. The squid was tasty but the fresh coriander and parsley were hard to taste. The side dish of seasonal mixed veg consisted of peas, carrots and soggy broccoli, all swimming in a little dish of water, and all tasting as if they’d been defrosted in the microwave. In conjunction with the service we’d received, it was not up to the standard we thought appropriate.

Dessert was a special of raspberry crème brulee where the raspberry did not fit but the crème brulee was successfully made. The shortbread was buttery but still too sticky and soft to be authentic shortbread rather than just biscuit. Raspberry sorbet was delicious – though it’s unknown whether it’s made on site or not.

The manager did admit that there was “no excuse for slow service, no excuse at all,” but unfortunately his professionalism at the end did not take away the bad taste left after two bad visits to this chain. The food is mediocre at best and it seems the staff are generally (there are exceptions of course) not well trained and inefficient. Whereas after my last visit I had a reason to return, now I have a reason to never go again.

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Pizza Express puts the High in High Wycombe

Pizza Express: 40 Oxford Street, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP11 2DJ

Chain restaurants like Pizza Express can often overlook customer service or the food can become so manufactured and similar that you might as well have unpacked it and microwaved it yourself. However, the High Wycombe branch showed how to keep it fresh, keep customers satisfied, and have a full set of covers on a Wednesday night.

Though we had to wait for a table for ten minutes, the manager was engaging, apologetic and had us seated as quickly and effortlessly as possible. The service was slick and friendly without being overbearing. Fat Marcona almonds were creamy and salty while rustica tomatoes were flavoured with herbs and oozing with juice. However, at £2.95 and £2.45 respectively, as “nibbles” the portions were too small.

Starters consisted of freshly baked garlic bread steeped in garlic butter while the dough was puffy, fluffy and just slightly salted. A very sophisticated and elegant garlic bread. Mozzarella and tomato salad was plain but tasty with fat slices of the cheese and tomato neatly layered together. Lastly, risotto d’Oro was a appropriately-sized portion of creamy rice mixed with butternut squash, gorgonzola and rocket and infused with garlic oil. A great start.

Mains came swiftly: the superfood salad with chicken was a mass of fresh leaves with chunks of butternut squash and slices of tender chicken. Flavour powered through from balsamic vinegar and pine kernels. Hunks of beetroot, avocado and mozzarella also added to the variety and texture of the salad. Generous and filling! If you’re into pasta, the cannelloni was rich with béchamel, though there was a little too much tomato sauce. A side of peppery dough sticks was useful to mop it up though it did overpower the flavour a little. The pasta though was well-cooked. Finally, a pizza! The romana da morire was topped with gorgonzola, pancetta, leeks, artichoke, mozzarella, rosemary and chilli oil. The thin base was vast and deliciously crispy while the chilli oil added a ribbon of spice and heat. The artichoke, leeks and pancetta gave some great texture.

Desserts came in the form of toffee fudge glory: a passable ice-cream sundae with tasty vanilla gelato but very hard pieces of fudge and a sickly toffee sauce. Not a fantastic finish but unfortunately the dessert menu isn’t hugely appetising overall anyway. From the “Dolcetti” menu, the semi freddo reale was particularly good; a cube of gelato topped with nougat, praline and flavoured with marsala wine. The crunchy texture on top was great and the portion was just big enough to enjoy and just small enough for when there’s not much room left!

Pizza Express will never be your fine dining destination but it’s not meant to be – it’s meant to be fun, friendly and affordable, while serving hearty, tasty food with pleasant presentation. In High Wycombe, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

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