To be left with a lasting impression of a particular venue is usually a good thing, but a recent visit to American-Italian chain restaurant, Frankie and Benny's with a group of gal pals (and the Best Foodie Friend – BFF), left an impression of a different kind, a kind which, in the form of indigestion, found me mentally re-visiting my evening here for quite some time afterwards...
Date and Time: Thursday 9th June 2011, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Frankie and Benny's*
Location: Aspects Leisure Complex, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Birthday meal for a lovely friend
Located in East Bristol's Aspects Leisure Park amidst other such popular chain restaurants as, Nandos, Pizza Hut and Chiquito, Frankie and Benny's gleams with it 's familiar neon signage and red, white and green colour scheme. It's fair to say that the theme of this restaurant is unmistakable, the distinctive American-Italian culture consistently carried through all aspects of the space from it's décor to the 'Learn Italian' CD that plays in the toilets. This is arguably a little cheesy and yet, you can't deny that it creates a fun and friendly ambiance. The 50's vibe, thrown in for good-measure, reflected in the 'rock 'n' roll' style soundtrack, even amounts to dimming the lights and playing Cliffy classic, 'Congratulations' when there is a birthday in-the-house! Furthermore, it can be said that the restaurant is smart, immaculately clean and the booths comfortable to sit in and when the staff also adhere to the restaurant's theme with characteristically flawless (American-inspired) service and a 'happy-to-help' attitude, you can't really complain.
However, when it comes to the food, you certainly can...The main menu is extensive, there is almost too much choice and dishes seem rather expensive upon first-look. There is a fixed price menu which offers two courses from a generous selection at £9.95 and this is what I opted for based entirely on my unfortunate lack of funds at this time! It had been a challenging day and so, comfort food drove my choice towards the double-loaded Pepperoni Pizza. Now, I'm not a chef but I would consider it rather difficult to mess up a pizza with only one topping and yet, this was regrettably the case. The base was soggy and towards the centre of the pizza, it harboured puddles of stodgy cheesiness and grease. I'm aware that pepperoni is an oily meat but had it been prepared in a way which allowed for some of the excess oil to be drained away, it could have been crisp and tasty. Other diners were equally unimpressed; BFF ordered the Lemon Chicken Salad (£9.95) which, although flavoursome, was over-dressed and constituted a minuscule portion given that it cost almost ten pounds. The Sausage Dinner, ordered without vegetables, was served without it's Yorkshire Pudding which we had to ask for, and the BBQ Steak Hot-Baked Wrap (£10.25) had a red onion imbalance meaning that it's apparent twang dominated the other elements of the dish.
|Lemon Chicken Salad|
|Double Pepperoni Pizza|
When it came to dessert, two of our party (myself included) chose the White Chocolate Brownie Sundae – this consisted of two cubes of brownie (albeit a rather nice brownie) which had been frozen solid by the ice cream piled on the top. This made it impossible to eat as cutting through it required a feat of strength that none of us had and to consume the chocolaty cuboid whole would have proven rather unladylike!. A thick crown of synthetic 'squirty' cream finished this dish which left little to be desired due to it's claggy consistency. The lack of the advertised wafer was the final insult to injury and consequently, two half-eaten desserts were left for the servers to clear.
|White Chocolate Brownie Sundae|
All in all, Frankie and Benny's, not worth the pennies! It's a shame because I've seen evidence of large-scale chain restaurants getting it spot-on; feeding the masses with high-quality food at a reasonable price and not just falling victim to the concept of getting bums on seats. Perhaps this restaurant could take a leaf out of the book of, say, Beefeater Grill where large parties and families are catered for with well-prepared and tasty classics (see review). I suggest that simplicity is the key here; if Frankie and Benny's were to streamline their menu somewhat, and concentrate on perfecting a smaller suite of dishes, it might well result in better quality all-round. After all, I think that this venue has the ingredients for a perfectly passable eatery and I found no fault with the space itself or the service. But at present, there is not much chance of a re-visit – even if you paid me with Mamma's meatballs!
And now for the second opinion....
BFF gave Frankie and Benny's 4/10 and in three words, described her experience as 'mediocre and pricey'.