Agnello Tagliatelle

Celebrating a birthday we went to Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway for lunch. We did look at the menu at Frankie and Benny’s, but after our last experience there, we decided that actually it might be better to go somewhere else.

Entering the restaurant we were guided to our table, the place seemed very empty. However due to the design and layout of the restaurant, though noticeable there weren’t too many people in there, it didn’t feel empty and lonely, as some places can.

Looking over the menu, I did consider going with the cheaper fixed price lunchtime offering, but in the end I went with a pasta dish from the main menu. I chose the Agnello Tagliatelle, slow cooked lamb and red wine ragu with fresh egg tagliatelle and Parmesan shavings, from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Agnello Tagliatelle

It looked great and was very tasty. The lamb and ragu had strong flavours that weren’t overpowering. The pasta was not overcooked and had texture. Certainly not the best fresh pasta I’ve had, but very good. My only real criticism was that the Parmesan shavings were a little too thick for my liking.

Service was initially very fast, but slowed down to a crawl by the time we asked for the bill! Overall a really nice dish and at £9.95 was very reasonable.

Lamb Kebab Baguette

The last time I went to Caffe Gusto at the Mall I was impressed with the quality of the food and friendly staff. Back then I ordered I ordered the Shish Kebab in Pitta Bread with an Americano.

The lamb was reasonably tender, nicely cooked and well flavoured. The fries were really nice and the salad was fresh. Overall I had an excellent meal and was pleased with what I had. I would go again.

So when I was at the Mall recently and looking to get some lunch I decided once more to go to Caffe Gusto. This time I ordered the Shish Kebab in a Baguette with an Americano.

The lamb again was cooked nicely and was tender. As before the fries were nice and the salad fresh. However I don’t think the dish really worked for me, but that wasn’t the fault of Caffe Gusto, more mine for ordering what I did. I think the problem was that the baguette was quite crusty and as a result the lamb fell out as I ate it. Might have been okay with the bread on the side, but as a sandwich type meal it didn’t work. So if you are going to order this dish, go for pitta bread and don’t go for the baguette!

Conference Dining

I don’t go to as many conferences as people often think, but I do probably photograph my food at most of them…

Recently I was attending a review meeting at Aston University and we had dinner the night before at the Aston Business School. Unlike a lot of conference dinners we had a choice, which is always nice. Also not only a choice, but we could choose on the night. Normally choice is either completely limited to a single choice, or if there is a choice you have to make that choice weeks in advance. I’m not a fan of that as often what tickles my fancy weeks ago, is not what I want to eat on the night! So having the choice on the evening I am eating is a real treat.

For my starter I went with the warm tartlet of chorizo, mushrooms and roasted shallots.

In other words a quiche! It was quite tasty and very nice. It was well presented too.

For the main dish, I went with the slow cooked blade of beef with a bourguignon sauce, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans.

The beef was very tender and was full of flavour. I would have liked more sauce, as in places the beef was a little dry. The potatoes were great and the beans were beans.

I was tempted by the other dishes on the menu, the slow braised shoulder of Moroccan lamb with North African cous cous when it arrived on the table looked really nice.

The cassoulet of beans with Gorgonzola polenta and roasted aubergine also looked great.

What was nice was that there were two vegetarian options, most times you have the single choice of a mushroom risotto.

So what about to finish with, well I am a sucker for cheese and biscuits and went with that.

Very nice, even with the large amount of celery, which I never eat. I did feel that if you provide four biscuits it would be nice to have at least four pieces of cheese. I felt short-changed with the cheese, it needed more cheese, or more different cheeses.

Must mention the excellent service, any place which has a table of twenty as we did and know who ordered what is a real bonus. The food came out and was served to the correct people. So much nicer than someone holding out a dish and calling out “who ordered the fish?”

Overall it was a really nice meal, nice to have a choice, cooked well, great service and nice surroundings.

Roast Leg of Lamb

Sometimes you don’t want a whole leg of lamb otherwise you will be eating lamb for the whole week…

Many supermarkets are now offering a partly boned leg of lamb, sometimes called a carvery leg of lamb. It is often cheaper and smaller than a traditional leg.

It takes less time to cook than a whole leg (obviously) and when I have cooked them found most to be tender and delicious and certainly better than a boned shoulder of lamb.

What I do find though is that as it is partly boned, though a little easier to carve, the meat does shrink a lot more whilst cooking and some of the meat can be a little tougher as a result.

I usually use rosemary and garlic, classic flavours, to enhance the roast. In the photograph you can see I roasted the joint on a bed of carrots and rosemary. The carrots raise the meat from the bed of the roasting pan and work like a rack. The carrots then make a great base for gravy.

I am interested in using other herbs and spices for the future. Morrocan spices are an obvious choice, but wonder if anyone out there has some winning and tasty ideas.

Boned Rolled Shoulder of Lamb

Sometimes despite all your best efforts, you fail to impress.

Though I know that shoulder is not the best cut of lamb, I hoped that a little slow cooking would make it tender.

However that didn’t work out as I hoped, though elements of the joint were tender, other bits were quite chewy or had a lot of gristle.

Another problem I had was that I bought this ready boned and rolled and as a result the “heart” of the joint was solid fat! Not particularly pleasant.

Overall I was disappointed, the last shoulder joint I had cooked was really nice, this wasn’t.