The very first time I visited a branch of Zizzi was around 2008/9 when I was working as a mystery diner, I had been assigned the branch in Newcastle upon Tyne and it was such a bad experience that I never ventured back until 2011 when I was invited out for a friends 22nd Birthday, I remember the food was good, the service was on point considering we had a table of 15 and the overall experience was a very good one.
We decided that instead of going for Sunday Lunch yesterday that we would pay a visit to Zizzi as the menu looked good and as we have seen children in there before that it must be fairly family friendly so I booked a table online for 12:30pm.
We arrived at the restaurant at 12:25 and although I’d already booked, they didn’t have an up to date booking list at the front desk which was fine as they were quite quiet although I wouldn’t have been very pleased if it had been busy and I hadn’t been able to get a table, you have to plan outings like this with military precision when you have a toddler you see.
There were already a couple of tables on the left hand side with prams and pushchairs so we selected a spot on the far right so we be out of the way should it get busier. Our drinks order was taken by a very polite server and we perused the menu.
Baby Gourmand started with Carrot sticks, Cucumber and Bread sticks which was part of the £6.75 Bambini kids menu, this was the perfect starter to keep him entertained until his main meal arrived.
Mini Gourmand and I decided to skip a starter as we have been to similar chains in the past and the food is usually very filling so we opted for the Italian bread bucket which contained Freshly baked focaccia bread & dough sticks with olive oil & rosemary. The bread bucket came with a bottle of balsamic vinegar and we made use of the olive oil that was on the table already, we both found this delicious and were quite excited to receive our mains especially if the taste and quality of some simple bread was so good.
That’s when things went downhill.
Mini Gourmand had ordered the Classic Pepperoni Campagna topped with Pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, mozzarella & thyme but as she’s a big eater she went for the larger Rustica base for an extra £1.50. The pizza may have been larger on the board but it was so thin that the edges had burnt, Mini Gourmand wasn’t a fan of this style of base at all, she found the combination of cheese and topping wasn’t quite right, there was big chunks of topping in parts and very little at other sections. She found the pizza lacking in flavour and was rather disappointed with her choice.
I had thought about getting a pizza and at the last minute changed my mind in favour of the Risotto Pesce which contained King prawns, mussels & squid rings in a tomato, chilli & white wine risotto. I very rarely eat risotto unless I make it myself I was quite excited to try this. I had my first mouthful and found I couldn’t taste anything but butter, I quickly gave Mini Gourmand a forkful to make sure my taste buds hadn’t died but I was right the dish didn’t have any real flavour just a very buttery taste. I then made the biggest mistake I’ve ever made when eating an Italian dish, I picked up what I thought was a piece of red pepper only it turned out to be a chilli and not a nice chilli a really really hot chilli. I’m a fan of spice, chilli and heat in my food, I love making curry and use chilli in stir fry, bread and a whole host of other dishes but never have I eaten something that packs so much heat, my mouth was on fire and between that, the lack of flavour and the buttery taste I was finished after 4 mouthfuls, I passed my plate over to Mini Gourmand who was so hungry she would have eaten anything!
Poor Baby Gourmand suffered the most with his dish pictured above. This was not minestrone soup but actually pasta Bolognese like I have never seen it before, it was so watery I had to decant the slippery pieces of Penne into a spare bowl. The least said about the taste of this the better, I think the picture speaks for itself.
I shared Arthur’s picture on instagram and was asked why I didn’t send it back? The restaurant had filled up (more about this later) and there only seemed to be two or three members of staff serving staff who were rushed off their feet add into this a hungry toddler who would have screamed the place down if his food had been removed it was best to just let him eat it.
When our server came to take the plates she asked if everything had been ok? I told her that it hadn’t actually been great, none of us had enjoyed our food and I told her I thought Baby Gourmands dish was diabolical, I’ve never actually seen Bolognese like it in my life! I then told her I wasn’t sure how I was going to vacate the resteraunt, you see while we had been sitting the place had filled up and we had been boxed in to a corner with our pushchair. It would have been hard enough for a person to squeeze out never mind a child in a pushchair, the server replied that we would have to fly with a laugh. Our server did offer to have a word with her supervisor but to be honest the restaurant was so busy and we had just had enough at this point that we declined as we just wanted to pay and leave.
We paid our bill, £41 which really wasn’t worth it at all and tried to work out how on earth we were going to get out, not one member of staff came over to help us and we were pretty much struggling. There was no way that we were ever going to get out so I decided that the best course of action would be to fold down the pushchair and lift it over the 3 tables that were in our way. The other diners helped us to get out and we made it to the door and still not one member of staff came to ask if we were ok.
One thing I would just like to point out is that it wasn’t just us who seemed to be having a bit of a bad time, a table to the side of us were not happy to have their main course delivered a couple of minutes after their starter and the table behind had sent their food back once and we could hear them after new dishes were brought out complaining about the quality of the food, they looked to have ordered Bolognese, I hope they didn’t have the same sauce as Baby Gourmand!
I don’t imagine we will ever be returning to this chain and I’m actually annoyed with myself that I wasted £41 on food and service that was substandard.
**Update** Zizzi have been in touch via email with the following reply
“It certainly doesn’t sound like our usual high standards of service were achieved and it was disappointing to hear about the quality of the food you and your guests ordered. All customer feedback I receive is logged and collated, I’ve also asked the Operations Manager to share your comments with the team to ensure we’re offering a friendly and efficient service at all times. At Zizzi we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service and fantastic d ishes but it does seem we have let you down on this occasion.
I can assure you this has been dealt with at restaurant level and has been circulated around Head Office through a Weekly C omplaints Report to ensure everyone stays updated with what’s going on in all our Zizzis. This h elps us improve our service in the future.
I really appreciate you taking the time to let us know about this and by way of apology for your visit, I’d like to send you a £20 Zizzi gift card that you can use at any Zizzi, at any time within the next 18 months.”
I have accepted their offer and will in fact visit again to see if any improvements have been made.
Have you visited Zizzi before? Did you have a good experience?