I'm a programmer specialising in performant and scalable systems using PHP and Ruby and cooking

On Restaurant critic

Zizzi Chichester - The good, the bad and the tasty

"Welcome one and all to my new blog series."

I've always been passionate about food; cooking it, eating it and now reviewing it. Having grown up in a house where cooking is a basic skill i learnt to cook gourmet food from an early age. My experience working in kitchens and observing some great culinary experts has served to enhance my love for all things food.

It's come to my attention recently that i spend a large proportion of my evenings, instead of cooking great food, trying different eateries around my local area. At first it started as a simple case of apathy. Being in the IT industry it's not uncommon that I won't be home be 9pm each day and as such have very little desire to cook a full meal at this time of night. However one must eat and as such i've been visiting various local restaurants on a more frequent basis. Unfortunately it's also worked out that I’ve been testing the metal of many of my local take away services too.

In light of all this eating out I've decided to add a new series of articles to my blog, I'm not sure how long I will persevere on this course however I will try to produce a review on EVERY new establishment I visit from now until I get bored.

So without any further ado let's get this show on the road and start with a classic local:

Zizzi Italian - Chichester

I should probably say before we really start that this isn't the first time that I've visited this restaurant recently. After a long period of negative reviews and diminished quality the chain is attempting to make a comeback at it's Chichester location.

Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by a rather cute attempt a quirkiness in the form of folding chair cinema chair from the local theatre as a place to wait before being seated. Although I arrived at what appears to have been a peak time, I didn't have to wait longer that 2 minutes before a member of staff seated me at a table. There is no double door system many of restaurants employ which does mean that there is no half way in scenario where there isn't enough room for your party to completely enter the waiting area.

The atmosphere is lively, although perhaps a little on the loud side. The largely open space of the building and limited wood work gives the interior a spacious feel. However this does tend to cause a background echo and it can be hard to communicate across the table without shouting.

Once seated one thing you really can't ignore is the open kitchen. This, I think, is one of the great features of this restaurant. Being able to see food prepared as well as experience the
sounds and smells of the kitchen really enhance the overall evening; there's nothing quite like feeling the heat from the flames as they flambe someones meal.

To start with I went for a small plate of the "Fritto Misto":

"King prawns, calamari, whitebait, peppers, artichoke and courgette lightly battered. Served with chilli, lemon, parsley and an aioli dip."

This has become a firm favourite of mine combining many of my favourite elements. Last time I had this it was fantastic, perfectly cooked and just enough in a portion to share as a large plate and for one as a small plate. Although I can't fault them on the portion size once more I can however feel disappointed that the quality doesn’t appear to be consistent in this scenario. The vegetables were over cooked and the light batter had lost it's crispness giving the dish a
soggy texture, even though the seafood was cooked perfectly.

Zizzi offer a wide range of dishes on their menu, suitable for almost every customer; ranging from salads, seafood, more traditional dishes to the standard pastas and pizzas. 1 great addition to the menu is their "light bites" section, providing a great compromise for those looking for a small yet filling evening meal.

This time I decided to go for something a little less special and opted for the more basic Lasagne, in this case “Lasagne al forno":

"Rich ragu and bechamel, topped with reserva cheese and breadcrumbs"

Again the flavours were impeccable providing the perfect balance of tangy tomato, rich beef and smooth white sauce. This was however once again ruined by the quality. The meal has clearly been overcooked again, this time causing a not insignificant proportion of the bottom layer to be burnt to the dish itself.

Now the thing I'm sure you wall want to know, is it value for money?

I believe so. Zizzi is not a pretentious attempt at gourmet dining such as the likes of Blancs, it is simple italian food for the everyday diner. My meal which consisted in total of:

  • 1 beer (Menabrea)
  • 1 lemonade
  • 1 small fritto misto
  • 1 lasagne al forne

came to a total of £23.15. Whilst not the cheapest evening out I did enjoy a couple of drinks and a 2 course meal for what I feel is a perfectly reasonable price considering the high quality of the service received. It is also worth noting that often Zizzi has special offers on meals frequently offering up to 50% off meals and of course there are always the standard vouchers available on code sites and loyalty schemes.

Before I close there are a couple of things I'd like to share. They aren't really the fault of this branch of Zizzi but more of a failing higher up the chain however I feel that I should mention them as they do detract from the overall enjoyment of the night.

First the dishes themselves, I'm talking about the plates, bowels and pans themselves. They look impressive and I'm sure they're practical in the kitchen but in the case of my lasagne, the dish was actually a hinderance to me even consuming the dish. The sides are too high blocking me from getting a sufficient angle with my knife and fork to attack the food. This also had a side effect of bringing my knuckles dangerously close to the oven hot cast iron dish.

Secondly is the feedback process. Personally I like to leave feedback if the meal has been anything except average, often constructive or simply praise for a great meal. Unfortunately Zizzi have managed to turn this into a chore.

In order to leave feedback you must retain the receipt, a problem if you didn't pay, and then go onto their feedback site, enter the code on the receipt and answer the questionnaire. Although not something that affects your visit this does make me disinclined to leave any feedback.

Overall I've had mixed experiences at this restaurant ranging from poor service to overcooked food (pizzas can be often burnt at the edges) however it has improved dramatically lately and I intend to return in the near future.

I would recommend Zizzi as a good restaurant suitable for families and group night outs with exceptional value for money.