On the Airwaves

I have a big announcement to make which I’m pretty excited about because Fongtastic Food has made its first ever media appearance!

Faye Bennett, a multimedia journalist student at Southampton Solent University, asked if I would be interviewed for her food themed Final Major Project and I was only too happy to take part.

Have a little listen by clicking the play button below if you would like to hear me discuss the inspiration for Fongtastic Food and what I love and hate most about food in the UK.

All media enquiries should please be sent to fongtasticfood@gmail.com

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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

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