You need more staff…

I like great service, actually I almost expect great service. Generally most people do not go out to a restaurant to eat, they go for the whole experience. The welcome, the opening drink, the perusal of the menu, the choosing, the ordering, the anticipation, the actual eating, the reflection and leaving the table, knowing you don’t need to do the washing up. It’s the atmosphere, the furniture, the music, or no music, the ambience. A good restaurant will try and ensure that the whole experience is just right, and good customer service, is critical for a positive dining experience.

Down in London for a short break, we went to Pizza Express in Kingston, in the Rotunda. Though they said the air-conditioning was broken, it wasn’t that hot, so it didn’t appear that was going to be an issue.

Looking over the menu I decided upon the Toscana Romana Pizza, which is described as having a bigger, thinner, crispier pizza, topped with crumbled chilli & fennel sausage, mozzarella and tomato finished with baby mozzarella, Gran Moravia cheese, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Toscana Pizza

Though on my pizza I got slices of sausage rather than crumbled sausage and I think the pizza works better for it. The Toscana Pizza was delicious and I really enjoyed it.

My wife went with the Leggera Superfood Salad, this is made with baby spinach and seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and fresh basil, finished with balsamic syrup.

Superfoods Salad

She really enjoyed it, she though was disappointed that it had no seafood in it! Always read the menu carefully.

Unfortunately, a lack of staff meant for me that the dining experience, specifically the service, was not as good as the pizza. We had to wait long amounts of time between getting the menu, placing our food order, ordering additional drinks and getting the bill. One of the results of the lengthy service delays was in the end we decided not to have pudding.

I don’t mind slow service sometimes, it’s nice to take your time and not be rushed, however, I do find there is a difference between slow and indifferent, which appeared to be the issue here. Too often we were ignored even though we had indicated or even said we wanted some attention. I got the feeling that this was down to a lack of staff, who were probably too rushed and forgot about the key elements of good customer service.

The food was great, just a pity about the service.

Chicken with lentils and peas

My original plan was to cook chicken with lentils in my usual manner, and as explained in this blog post.

However this time decided (as I was cooking) to cook something slightly different. Firstly the chicken wasn’t entirely suitable for grilling in my original recipe, as I was using skinless and boneless thigh pieces. So I went with cooking them in the pan that I would normally use for the lentils.

The chicken was added first and browned. I then added some pancetta, chopped red onion and some chopped courgette. This was then cooked for a few minutes. I then added some chicken stock. I let this cook for about ten minutes.

It was at this stage that I decided to change my recipe. I added some frozen peas and some chopped sun dried tomatoes, and let the dish cook for another five minutes.

I then added the tinned green lentils and half a pot of creme frache. This was then brought back to the simmer to ensure that the lentils are heated through and the creme frache mixed through.

I then served the dish.

Cooking Chorizo

If you have eaten chorizo in the past, either the thinly sliced stuff you get in packs next to the ham, or the whole chorizo sausage that you are finding more and more in most supermarkets, then you probably will find that cooking chorizo really should be on your shopping list.

Now this is cooking chorizo and really does need to be cooked. I have been using it in a few recipes recently, in the main paella, but also chorizo frito al vino.

My method is to cut the chorizo into slices about quarter of an inch thick. Fry in a large frying pan until sealed on both sides and just starting to go a little crispy. At this point I add the red wine (Spanish red wine is best, but I am sure you can use any good red wine).

Cook the chorizo for a few more minutes. Serve as part of a tapas or with salad. The red wine with the chorizo makes a wonderfully spicy sauce which you can dunk warm soft bread into.

Sainsbury’s cooking chorizo comes as smaller whole sausages and these can be cooked whole, but will take a little longer.

Another recipe was to add it to lentils. In a large frying pan, saute some diced onions, pepper and pancetta. I added some stock and tomato puree and simmered for about ten minutes before adding the sliced cooking chorizo. This I cooked for a further five minutes.

The next stage was to add the lentils, I usually use tinned green lentils. I finished the dish with some basil, though parsley would have been better.

Another way I use chorizo is to add it to a tray of roasting vegetables to add texture, flavour and spice.

In many ways cooking chorizo is a versatile ingredient that is in many ways much easier to use than tradition air dried chorizo. I would air caution though, make sure it is proper cooking chorizo and not chorizo style sausages otherwise you will be disappointed.

Lentils with Chorizo

This is warming dish, usually suited for winter, but also ideal for those cold wet autumn days.

In a large frying pan, saute some diced onions, pepper and pancetta. I added some stock and tomato puree and simmered for about ten minutes before adding the sliced cooking chorizo. This I cooked for a further five minutes.

The next stage was to add the lentils, I usually use tinned green lentils. I finished the dish with some basil, though parsley would have been better. I did in fact (as you can see from the photograph) serve this with some cooked sausages, but this probably isn’t necessary.

Merguez aux Lentilles de Puy

Though I always have reservations about Café Rouge there is one item on the menu that I do like that always tempts me to try the place again, and that is Merguez aux Lentilles de Puy or grilled spicy Merguez sausage on a bed of puy lentils in a ceramy sauce and topped with a rocket salad.

They do a very good merguez sausage and it is always very well done, well cooked and nice and spicy.  The lentils were quite good too.

However the dish was let down by something as simple as rocket leaves. They were not fresh, old and somewhat manky! A disappointment using not just old rocket leaves, but ones that looked as if they were verging on going off.

Once more Café Rouge disappoints, I need to learn from this.