I’ve written a few restaurant reviews in my time … Villagio, Zippers, and the disastrous Eight … and one thing is constant, I’m always honest. Whether the restaurant is great, average or downright horrible … I’m afraid you’ll get the truth. Which is a good thing, right?
So this week, I was invited to review my local Zizzi in Maidstone. They knew I was coming. They were scared … very scared. I’m like Masterchef’s Charles Campion, only slightly slimmer.
The interesting thing with this review is that because they knew I was coming we couldn’t go incognito – I was gutted that I had to take my fake moustache and Fedora off but hey, there’ll be other times. The PR lady for Zizzi had kindly booked our table for us and when we were warmly greeted by the manager, it was difficult at first to tell if this was because she knew I was there to review her restaurant or whether she was just a jolly nice person.
I’ve never been to Zizzi before and although I know it’s a chain of restaurants, I still had high hopes. I like Italian food (who doesn’t?), they had Tiramisu … what could go wrong?
After being taken to our table, we were impressed with the décor and ambience of the place – it was a Saturday night, 7.30pm, and it was busy, but not too noisy or crowded. We could see the chefs working from where we sat, and I had the usual conversation with my son about being jealous of their wood fired oven (and how I’d like one in the garden.)
Our drinks order was taken – I’d been dreaming about a pint of ice cold Peroni in an ice cold glass, and I wasn’t disappointed. Dexter chose an Appletiser, which he didn’t like (kids!), but they were happy to get him a San Pellegrino Lemon instead, which he did like.
We chose to have some bread to nibble on before our starters, which we don’t usually do. It was tasty but to be honest, unnecessary and a bit greedy on my part – had I waited ten minutes I could have eaten the bread that came with my cheese fondue. I don’t think it was called a cheese fondue, but it was warm runny cheese and, although delicious, there was too much and it wasn’t tasty enough to get warrant me ordering it again. The rosemary focaccia however, was gorgeous. Dexter had calamari which was plentiful and delicious – we’ve eaten it before in other restaurants and it’s been rubbery … this was just luvverly!
The menu covers every variation of Italian food you can imagine – pasta, risotto, pasta, pizza … together with the usual suspects of chicken wrapped in prosciutto ham, (‘skinny’) salads and Spiedini … Mediterranean hanging skewers of either meat or fish. I chose to have a pasta dish (Strozzapretti Pesto Rosso) which was beautifully flavoured chicken pieces in a red pesto and crème fraiche sauce topped with spring onions. Dexter chose a pizza as big as the table. I kid you not. It was massive, topped with pieces of thinly sliced steak, shaved parmesan and rocket. We chose to have Tuscan potatoes and salad to accompany our mains but we ended up doggy bagging the lot – it was far too much (but they were really sweet about us wanting to take the leftovers home and didn’t bat an eyelid.)
Dessert … this is what I’d really been looking forward to! Somehow, Tiramisu from the supermarket never tastes anywhere near as good as a restaurant’s and so I didn’t hesitate in ordering it. Dexter didn’t surprise me at all by ordering the ‘Chocolate Melt.’ Both were amazing … although I’m having to take Dexter’s word for it as I didn’t get a look in. My portion was really generous and I ended up taking half of that home too!
OK, the staff knew I was there to review the restaurant and we were treated really well … BUT I did make sure I looked around to see how others were treated and I saw no difference. The waiters were cheery, uber polite and, although it got a little hectic at 9pm, they coped really well. I saw an incidence of a customer who had an issue with their pasta, but the manager was helpful, friendly and really polite in addressing it and that’s all you can ask for when something goes wrong.
A friend of mine isn’t a fan of Zizzi and I can’t quite understand why. Yes, you know what you’re going to get when you go there (the same could be said of every restaurant chain, from Ask to McDonalds), but isn’t that sometimes the point? If the food is tasty, the staff attentive and the price good value for money, I don’t see why you wouldn’t choose to go back.
I couldn’t fault our experience. Whether it would be as good every time we went, who knows, but our first Zizzi visit was great and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend trying them out for yourselves if you haven’t already.
UPDATE: Just as an aside, we have since eaten at another branch of Zizzi, the Bluewater branch, and unfortunately the standard of food and service was really disappointing. I chose the same pasta dish which was bland and tasteless, so I asked them to change it. The replacement pasta was exactly the same. Dexter’s mushroom pizza, however, was nice but when I asked for a doggy bag, a pizza box and small square box (not silver foil) was literally thrown on my table and the waitress walked off! I couldn’t believe it! We were late for an appointment but I shall be following this service up with a written complaint.
Disclaimer: We were given our meal free of charge but all views are honest and fair.