Catering & Hospitality at City College

City CollegeFongtastic Food recently contacted Southampton City College about their Catering & Hospitality course which they offer to school leavers. They kindly put us in touch with one of their upcoming graduates, Kenneth Williams, who spoke to us about the positive experiences he gained from missing out on university in order to learn how to cook some of the best food he had ever tasted in his lifetime.

What is your favourite thing to eat and why?

My all time favourite would would have to be a rack of roast lamb cooked to perfection because there’s nothing like a nice big plate of hardcore protein to end your day. I would of course have some veg with it too though, I don’t think a meal’s a meal without something green!

Do you have a signature dish?

I’ve been told I make the most incredible dauphinoise potatoes but if we’re talking an actual meal, I’d probably say I do a pretty decent beef wellington.

Why are you passionate about food?

I could eat for a family of five so I thought I better get some skills, better learn how to cook because I’ll never be able to afford to eat out enough to make me happy!

In regards to cooking, do you have a role model or someone you look up to?

It’s awfully cheesy but nothing beats your mum’s cooking, so I’d have to say that my mum is massive role model to me. When I didn’t get the GCSE grades I was hoping for, she was the one that sat me down properly and helped me through all the options I had. She encouraged me to try catering because she believed in me and thought I could do well if I put my heart and soul into it.

What have you already learnt from the course and what do you hope to take away from it by the end?

I went in as a complete and utter amateur and I’ve now come out with the confidence to run my own restaurant if I really wanted to. I’ve learnt everything there is to know about food, more than I could’ve ever dreamed. We started off really basic and learned how to cook an egg every way possible and now I’m cooking amazing food that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. I worry though that my taste buds have become a bit too refined now as I’m pretty critical of how food is prepared and presented. When I ask for medium rare, I expect medium rare!

Why do you think others should attend a cookery school of some sort?

If you love to cook, go do catering. Don’t feel the need to jump through all the traditional academic hoops by going to university to study business or something boring like that. Catering college is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, it’s a lot of hard work but you come out with an actual skill that will get you employed.

After you finish your course, what is your ultimate goal?

I want to run my own restaurant but that unfortunately, is a long way off. I’ll probably start out at the bottom of the kitchen and work my way up. I’d love to cook abroad, somewhere like Italy or Spain because the food over there can be so much more interesting.

To learn more about City College‘s Catering & Hospitality course, please click here.

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Milan Restaurant

Salmon Tagliatelle

Salmon Tagliatelle

A wander round town in search of dinner for under a tenner revealed very few choices. Not more than a hundred yards from where all of the students live in the Polygon, I stumbled upon a small Italian restaurant with a slightly garish exterior but neatly finished and surprisingly welcoming interior.

I was greeted by a very enthusiastic Italian restaurateur who managed to squeeze us in to what was a completely deserted room with about fifty covers. This was slightly unnerving as it was just after seven on a Friday night but we persevered.

After a quick scan of the menu, I found a substantial number of dishes in my price bracket. I was starving so I was very grateful when a complimentary bread roll and delicious olives were placed in front of me. Sadly, the bread was a tad dry and could have benefited from a few minutes warming in the oven.

I was not waiting long (although, the noisy drinks fridge was starting to bug me) before my Salmon Tagliatelle arrived before me. I very much enjoyed the first half of the meal before the richness of the cream sauce overwhelmed my palate and I became very full, very quickly and struggled to finish.

My total bill came to £13 which included a bottle of Peroni at £3 which I was very satisfied with seeing as most of the other restaurants along Southampton’s main street would have cost substantially more.

  • Food: 6.5/10
  • Service: 6.5/10
  • Atmosphere: 5.5/10
  • Value: 8/10
  • Overall: 6.6/10

Have you eaten at the Milan Restaurant? Tweet us your experience @FongtasticFood

Zizzi Ristorante

Rustica Pizza with Parma Ham, Rocket and Tomato

Rustica Pizza with Parma Ham and Rocket

A cheeky weekend trip to Bristol was enhanced by an excellent evening meal at Zizzi, a popular Italian chain of restaurants in the UK.

The restaurants appearance was typically chic with dark wooden furniture, dimmed lighting and perfectly laid out tableware. An incredible, fiery masonry oven towered over the open kitchen, ensuring in my mind that the pizzas would be of a high quality. I was not proved wrong.

The menu featured classic Italian dishes with an abundance of olives, breads, pastas and pizzas.

We began our meal with a selection of mixed olives which were delicious. More interestingly however, was the unique, little, wooden bowl the olives arrived in. It had a main bowl for the olives and a smaller bowl attached to the side to leave the olive stones in. I don’t know why we were only given two toothpicks when there were clearly four of us though.

Calzone with Chicken, Meatballs, Bolognese, Mushrooms, Chilli, Mozzarella and Tomato

Calzone with Chicken and Meatballs

Two ordered the newly featured ‘Rustica’ pizzas which are supposedly thinner, crispier and loaded with more toppings. Myself and another chose to have the calzone, ‘carne piccante’, which contained chicken, meatballs, bolognese, mushrooms, chilli, mozzarella and tomato.

The calzone was spectacular. It was great to find that the dough was crisp and full of flavour because it can sometimes be very dry and bland. The filling was tasty and packed with different herbs and spices. I do feel however that the chefs were a little bit stingy with the meats and a little bit too generous with the chillies. I found myself searching for the one piece of chicken I was given for the entire course of the meal and my final mouthful was ruined by an overload of chilli. This was unfortunate as I did not have much Sicilian lemonade left to help calm my flaming mouth.

Overall, the meal was very good value because we were able to claim a promotional code from VoucherCodes.co.uk which gave us 2 mains for £12.95. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the restaurant which was definitely a highlight of my Bristol adventure.

The Verdict:

  • Food: 7/10
  • Service: 7/10
  • Atmosphere: 8/10
  • Price: 7.5/10
  • Overall: 7.1/10

If you think Zizzi should open up a restaurant in Southampton, tweet them @WeAreZizzi

Are Dog-Friendly Restaurants Going A Step Too Far?

DogThe Bluebird Restaurant in London has announced that it will be launching a brand new dog-friendly menu as part of it’s ‘VIP Bites and Bones’ event, promising to deliver a whole range of “doggie cocktails, canapés and goodie bags”.

The Bluebird is not the only restaurant seeking to expand its market by catering to the needs of a more hairier clientèle. The Rivington Shoreditch restaurant in east London will be celebrating the Queen’s birthday by rewarding those who show up for lunch with a corgi with a free bottle of prosecco.

George, a members’ club in the capital, held a special party to launch their new dog menu last month. Model, Yasmin Le Bon, and shoe designer, Patrick Cox, brought their pets to be the first to try the canine cuisine, the proceeds from which went to the Dog’s Trust.

These events reflect one of today’s most popular trends, where owners are spending thousands of pounds spoiling and indulging their most-loved pets. But what do diners in Southampton think about the prospect of eating across from a Dalmation sipping on a Long Island Ice Tea?

How do you feel about dining alongside dogs? Tweet your opinions @FongtasticFood

Kachina

A platter of both vegetable and prawn spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, sesame prawn toast, sticky spare ribs, chicken satay, chicken wings, and seaweed with pork floss.

A platter of vegetable and prawn spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, sesame prawn toast, sticky spare ribs, chicken satay, chicken wings, and seaweed with pork floss.

I think it’s important to remind everyone that because I’m from Hong Kong, I’m especially critical when it comes to eating Chinese food in the UK. Most of the time, it doesn’t even remotely resemble any of the food that I’ve ever come across whilst living in Southeast Asia and can often be far too greasy because so much of it is deep-fried (especially if you order a takeaway, the ultimate sin)!

Kachina Chinese Restaurant was exceptional but at the same time a little bit disappointing. We opted for the evening buffet menu which cost £14.99 per person. We did however manage to claim a voucher from their website that gave us a whopping £10 off the total bill!

Although it was buffet, we were only allowed to order as many starters as we liked and then choose one main meal each (hence the greediness disappointment). The spring rolls were lovely and crunchy and so was the sweet and sour pork, but the chicken satay and wings were extremely dry and ended up having to be left.

The spare ribs on the other hand had mixed reviews. I personally found them to have a weird (not horrible, but weird all the same) taste but my partner in crime thought they were “tasty little morsels”. Now don’t even get me started on this sesame prawn toast debacle. Never in my entire life have I ever seen prawn sesame toast in either Hong Kong or China (I’m totally ready and willing to be corrected though) but it can be found in every single Chinese restaurant in the whole of the UK! It doesn’t even taste very nice!!! Nor has seaweed ever been served in a restaurant but oh well… I do love a good bit of algae. Ha.

In conclusion, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely satisfied with Chinese food in England. So I guess I better get used to having to cook it myself… watch this space!

The Verdict:

  • Food: 6.5/10
  • Service: 6.5/10
  • Atmosphere: 6.5/10
  • Value: 7.5/10 (but only because of the voucher)
  • Overall: 6.75/10

Have you ever eaten at Kachina? Tweet us your experience @FongtasticFood

Cayenne Closes

Celebrity Chef Paul Rankin

Celebrity Chef Paul Rankin

Celebrity chef, Paul Rankin, has announced that he will be closing his flagship Belfast restaurant, Cayenne, after a string of Union flag demonstrations disrupted his business.

Mr. Rankin, who once owned a successful chain of eateries across Ireland, said: “Location is key in the restaurant business, particularly at a time of economic downturn, and our current setting is no longer sustainable. The disturbances around the flag protest, particularly during the Christmas period, also confirmed our decision.

“The lease at our current location has now come to an end and, given the change in the Shaftesbury Square area over the last number of years, it doesn’t make sense to undertake the necessary investment required to continue to operate there at this time.”

The chef added: “The once ‘golden mile’ of Belfast has suffered badly from a lack of regeneration and a general decline in popularity and appearance, even the Ulster Bank with its gable and statues across from us is to close shortly.”

Paul Rankin is one of Northern Ireland’s most renowned cooks. He won the country’s first Michelin star when he opened the fine-dining Roscoff Brasserie in 1989.

At the heigh of the recession, he was forced to sell off his chain of Rankin Cafés, as well as his Rain City restaurant.

The closing of Cayenne will result in the loss of 18 full and part-time jobs, but Mr. Rankin is promising to open another new restaurant as soon as possible.

“We’ve enjoyed a very loyal and supportive relationship with our customers over all these years and hope that they will bear with us while we find the right location to re-establish our restaurant.” Mr. Rankin said.

“Cooking is my ultimate passion and I am committed to establishing a new kitchen inspired by both Cayenne and Roscoff before it. There has already been some high level talks talking place about other exciting business and restaurant opportunities but I am open to identifying as many different options as possible so it really is too early to confirm any details as yet.”

Rankin’s own brand of foods will remain on sale in supermarkets across the UK and Ireland.

Trago Lounge

(L-R) Falafels with red onion and coriander yoghurt dip, hummus with extra virgin olive oil and smoked paprika, crayfish and prawns with tomato and chilli, honey glaze shredded 5 spice pork, roasted sweet potato and butternut squash with goats' cheese.

(L-R) Falafels with red onion and coriander yoghurt dip, hummus with extra virgin olive oil and smoked paprika, crayfish and prawns with tomato and chilli, garlic and parsley mushrooms with smoked paprika, honey glazed shredded 5 spice pork, roasted sweet potato and butternut squash with goats’ cheese.

Trago Lounge is just one part of a large chain of cafés/bars called ‘The Lounges‘. It is the ideal place for an impromptu, upmarket meal, without having to go through all of the fuss of making a reservation, having someone constantly waiting on you and then worrying about who’s turn it is to pay the bill.

The restaurant reminds me of a smart, but friendly, gastropub with its classic leather and solid wood furniture. Just enough character has been splashed across the room to make it interesting and individual, I especially like the vintage wall hangings and large blackboard-style menus.

Opting for their signature tapas (a choice of 3 for for just £7.95), I hesitantly waited for it to arrive at my table after I was left incredibly disappointed when I first tried it on a trip to Seville, Spain, last year.

Fortunately, the UK’s take on the traditional Spanish cuisine seemed to do the trick. The six mini dishes arrived at the table looking vibrant as ever and were served with a nice helping of ciabatta bread.

On to the critique. I definitely enjoyed the hummus, pork, and mushrooms but I wasn’t too keen on the falafel or the crayfish (I’m undecided as to whether or not I liked the roasted veg because I think it could’ve done with a little bit longer in the oven!). The shredded pork was my favourite, it was beautifully tender and melted in the mouth, and you can never go wrong with garlic mushrooms. The tomato and chilli sadly overpowered the seafood and you couldn’t taste the subtle flavours of the crayfish at all and the falafel is just plain difficult to perfect so I’m sure I can find it in my heart to forgive them for that minor dry blunder.

All in all though, I honestly think the Lounge has one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat in, and the food was delicious considering how affordable it was. I will definitely be making another visit sometime soon and you should too!

The Verdict:

  • Food: 7/10
  • Service: 7/10
  • Atmosphere: 10/10
  • Value: 8.5/10
  • Overall: 8.1/10

Did you enjoy your last visit to one of the Lounges? Tweet your feedback @TheLoungers