Random,  Unqualified Bias

Eating Out

If you go out for a meal, what do you look for? Do you go and find a place with beautiful surroundings, lots of space, fine dining (you know, like arty farty food), cheap prices, good service etc. Well the first thing I look for is non- pretentious food menus, as you are probably aware. I do not care for fast service, fine dining or beautiful surroundings. All I require is enough space so that I am not hitting elbows with my neighbours and a warm seating area that’s not within 5 metres of the entrance door, so that I do not have to contend with blasts of cold air coming in every 5 minutes. Also, reasonably priced food that reflects its portion size; and if the price of the dish is expensive, I want a good plate of food that reflects the cost. That’s not much to ask for is it?!  Sadly, in this country, I’ve noticed over the past few years, that I seem to be getting ripped off, because the portion sizes are stupidly small.

Let me explain.

There has been an influx over the past 10 years or so in this country of chain restaurants. People eat out more now, so obviously this has become a necessary requirement. The ones I am thinking of seem to be in every city of Britain, just about. Pizza Express, Prezzo, Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Carluccios, Zizzi, Frankie and Benny’s and so on.  These restaurants have their place I suppose, and are ok for having a light lunch, but unless you order as a main, a burger or a pizza (bread to bulk out the feeling of fullness in your belly) you will probably go home still hungry; and the cost is getting higher.

Over Christmas I usually treat my boys and take them to one of these places. My youngest son’s favourite being ‘Nandos’, another over-rated eatery. I had a voucher from an email and took them to Bella Italia. Every time I’ve had food there, I must admit it’s good, but the portion sizes are so small, and its frustrating. My boys love the Pizza’s, so they had a chicken and pepperoni each, costing about £22 for two! And I had spaghetti with meatballs; and I knew I would receive a piddly amount in a deep-dish plate. The boys ate theirs and felt quite full, and mine just felt like it rested on the surface of my stomach. I looked at it and though “Is that it?”. A small to medium portion of spaghetti and 5 small meatballs (large rabbit poo sized-dry too!) for about £12, a total rip off. We had a pudding each, all about £6, and mine was laughable. Six wormlike churros, with a tiny pot of dipping chocolate. I went there for the boys, but I’m not going again.

Do you think that’s small? Cos I do!

But I’ve noticed this happens in many of these chain restaurants. Café Rouge served me a steak with chips and a salad once, which consisted of a piece of steak the size of the sole of a size 2 shoe , the fries in a small metal cup and the salad, which wasn’t a salad at all, but a few leaves and spinach. Don’t you feel just so ripped off in situations like this. It came to about £14! Frankie and Benny’s charge £4 for a small portion of fries and about £3 for a glass of coke. If you go out with 2 children, you don’t see much change out of £60, and I always feel like popping into the chippy on the way home.

Have you any thoughts on this?

I’ve always wondered if it’s just me and I like a good portion of food. Yet, some of my friends have said the same thing.

There is however a great pub/restaurant chain in this country now and it’s called ‘Weatherspoons’. They have a featured meal each day at a good price, including a drink, about £7 on average. Or you can look at their main menu and choose from a vast array of different dishes and get any of them for around £8, and you know when it arrives you will get a full plate of food and walk away happy, full and contented with the knowledge that you haven’t been ripped off!

A Weatherspoon’s mixed grill about £7.50, with a drink. Now that to me is good value for money. Look at the size of it!

When in Cambridge this place was heaving and they had to stop food orders because they couldn’t cope. This pub/food restaurant is that popular. Yet, go along to any of the others I’ve mentioned above, and you can easily get a seat at lunchtimes, which shows that something is wrong surely. Saying that though, Nandos is always busy, but I think that a lot of young people like it, my boys certainly do.

Have you any thoughts on this or am I just moaning because I’m a fatty?

Moan over!

PS..There’s just the one that I feel does tick all the boxes. Not that cheap but you get a good meal, tastes lovely and plenty of it. Chiquitos x

I am a mother of two children, and have had many experiences in my life that I have been through and had to overcome. I feel it would be beneficial (at least to me, and perhaps you) to share my experiences. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. x


  • Allen T. St. Clair

    Couple of thoughts – those churros are effed up! LOL Also, I hate going to pasta places because usually, you pay $10 or more for a plate of regular ole fettuccine and I could make 10 portions at home for that price. LOL However, we have the chain restaurant The Olive Garden (not sure if it’s in the UK yet) that serves Italian food, but each table gets free breadsticks and salad with their meals, so I don’t mind paying $10 for a plate of pasta there. JoJo and I like this place in town (not a chain restaurant) that’s called Catrina’s Cantina & Tequila Bar. Some of the best sit-down Mexican food around. We may spend $40-$50 for the two of us, but we always leave full as hell, they have endless soda/water/tea refills, and sometimes we even come home with food we couldn’t eat. Also, the pub in town here has personal pizzas and it would cost similar to what you paid for your two boys, but they’re HUGE and delicious. However, I’ve heard so much about Nandos from UK friends, if I ever make it over there, I’m going straight to Nando’s. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. LOL

    • Pip

      Having an additional bowl to fill with all you can eat salad and breadsticks would certainly offset the shock of a high bill. The Olive Garden sounds interesting, and I’d like to try that one. I would also love to try a proper Mexican place, and eat a pizza like the size of a hubcap x

  • Adie

    Yay! I can see your blog again!

    I’m American, so I have never had a problem with feeling like I didn’t get enough food. Our portion sizes are ridiculous compared to the rest of the world. I almost always end up bringing half my meal home. Personally, I prefer a smaller portion size. Overeating is a huge problem. The amount of food you describe actually sounds about right for what the average person should be eating.

    Whether you’re overpaying is a matter of perspective, I suppose. Personally, doing a quick currency conversion, I think £12 is a bit steep for spaghetti and meatballs, regardless of the portion size–unless you’re going to some high-end restaurant where you’re basically paying for the prestige of saying you went there. I wouldn’t pay more than $11 USD (about £9) for spaghetti and meatballs, but probably because I make it at home regularly and why would I pay money to eat something I already eat once a week?

    Also, being from California and living so close to Mexico, those are NOT churros. Real churros are a little thicker, still kind of doughy on the inside, and just look heavier than that. Those look more like what we in the States call funnel cake, more specifically funnel cake fries (which is funnel cake, but done in small strips like French fries). Still delicious, but definitely not a churro. If they advertised that as a churro, they lied to you.

    • Pip

      Thanks for your message Adie. I do think you are correct with the amount you pay for food you can make at home. Somehow, because we know pasta is so cheap to buy, when we get charged the earth for a bowl of it, it feels like we are being ripped off, and actually we are. However, I have no qualms in paying £12 for a Lamb Biryani with chappatis, because I haven’t a clue how to make it, so it becomes a treat. Also the churros are laughable aren’t they?! In my howetown they have a food market sometimes that sells churros, and they certainly look very different from the fried worms that were served to me! x

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